Newsline for Nov. 12, 2021

NEWS
1) ‘Dearest Sisters and Brothers in Christ’: Letter supports Church of the Brethren ministers

2) Manchester offers full-ride Multicultural Excellence in Leadership Scholarship

3) Faith-based organizations to COP26: ‘We must respond with the knowledge of science and the wisdom of spirituality’

UPCOMING EVENTS
4) Brethren Academy revises schedule, announces new material, increases continuing education credit for Clergy Tax Seminar

5) ‘Sacred Connections: Advent Soul Tending for Spiritual Leaders’ to be offered to ministers

JESUS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: STORIES FROM CONGREGATIONS
6) Welcoming Team at Lititz gets media attention for welcome to Afghan refugees

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

7) Brethren bits: Two named to Stewardship of Property Committee, call for nominations to Annual Conference ballot, Global Mission prayer requests, 25 Days to Jesus, webinars tell story of Brethren Service Commission, 40th Annual Mid-Atlantic Disaster Response Auction, more



A note to readers: As many congregations return to in-person worship, we want to update our listing of Churches of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/news/2020/church-of-the-brethren-congregations-worship-online.html.

*Spanish/bilingual; **Haitian Kreyol/bilingual; ***Arabic/bilingual

*español/bilingüe, **kreyol haitiano/bilingüe, ***عربي / ثنائي اللغة

Please send new information to cobnews@brethren.org.


Lifting up Brethren who are active in health care: www.brethren.org/news/2020/brethren-active-in-health-care.html

Add a person to the list by sending first name, county, and state to cobnews@brethren.org.



1) ‘Dearest Sisters and Brothers in Christ’: Letter supports Church of the Brethren ministers

A letter from the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee has expressed the group’s support to the ministers in the Church of the Brethren. The letter acknowledged the particular challenges for ministers during the COVID-19 pandemic and shared information about a number of resources that are available for ministers and congregations experiencing financial hardship.

The full text of the letter follows:

Photo by Ronak Valobobhai on unsplash.com

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare…. I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” –Jeremiah 29:7, 10b-14

Dearest Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

A second year into the COVID pandemic and our congregations are pulling us this way and that. They want to meet in person; they want to meet virtually; they want everything to go back to “normal,” and they’re exhausted. In this time of exile and uncertainty, the demands upon you are even greater than they were last year when (almost) everyone understood that they couldn’t continue to meet as usual. In some places, congregational and pastoral stress and anxiety continue to rise.

Our scripture reminds us that the LORD has plans for our welfare and not for our harm, and that His plan is to gather us back together from all the places of exile: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Yet we know that God’s time is not our time, and living through ever new COVID variants, societal polarization, denominational turmoil, congregational conflict, and all the normal “stuff” of ministry (e.g., illness or death of church members) reminds us that exile can take many forms.

The Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee wants you to know that we are very aware of the challenges you face in your ministry during this second year of the pandemic. We want to remind you that financial resources are available for ministers (active and retired) and congregations who are experiencing severe financial stress. The Church Workers Assistance Plan (https://cobbt.org/Church-Workers-Assistance-Plan) through Brethren Benefit Trust, and the Ministry Assistance Fund (www.brethren.org/ministryoffice/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: https://covid19.brethren.org/financial-resources.

We are so grateful for each of you, brothers and sisters, and for the critical work you do for the church. The next time you feel discouraged, remember that you are valued and appreciated by the denomination, and especially by PC&BAC. We pray for you at our every meeting (and we have been meeting often!), and thoughts of how to bring about improvements to your relationship with your congregation around compensation, benefits, and work/life balance guide all our work. And you will see the results of that work very soon!

Stand firm in faith, rejoicing in your call, renewing your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, and trusting that God’s plan is for your welfare and not your harm.

Rev. Deb Oskin (Chair), Secular Compensation Professional
Rev. Dan Rudy (Secretary), Clergy
Art Fourman, Laity
Bob McMinn, Laity
Rev. Gene Hagenberger, CODE Representative
Rev. Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Director, Office of Ministry



2) Manchester offers full-ride Multicultural Excellence in Leadership Scholarship

A release from Manchester University

Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., seeks candidates for the Multicultural Excellence in Leadership Scholarship, designed to uplift exceptional and talented students who identify as a racial or ethnic minority.

“This scholarship allows us to honor and encourage the leaders of tomorrow,” said Ryon Kaopuiki, vice president of admissions and marketing. “Our Mission Statement calls on us to graduate people of ‘ability and conviction who draw upon their education and faith to lead principled, productive, and compassionate lives that improve the human condition.’ We are looking for those who want to make a difference.”

In related news, Manchester has added a nutrition sciences major beginning in the fall of 2022. In the new major, students are prepared to develop lifelong personal health practices and advise others on what to eat as part of a healthy lifestyle. Manchester nutrition majors will develop a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between nutrition, food, and lifestyle habits as they relate to human health and climate change. Students can major in nutrition sciences or pursue a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist concentration; a minor in nutrition sciences is also available and provides a strong complement to other health science degrees. Find out more at www.manchester.edu/about-manchester/news/news-articles/2021-news-articles/manchester-adds-nutrition-sciences-major-in-fall-2022.

Multicultural Excellence in Leadership Scholarship

The full-ride scholarship is renewable each year for a total of four years. It covers tuition, fees, and on-campus room and meal plan expenses. Manchester will award one such scholarship each year.

Multicultural Student Leadership Awards of $2,000 a year will go to the next five top finalists. The awards are renewable each year for up to four years.

“I encourage high school students with a passion for real change to see what Manchester has to offer,” said Rudy Rolle, director of student diversity and inclusion. “Visit us, hang out at the Jean Childs Young Intercultural Center, meet our professors, and see whether we’re a good fit.”

To be eligible for a multicultural award, applicants must:
— Be an incoming first-year, undergraduate student
— Identify as a racial or ethnic minority on the scholarship application
— Have been admitted to Manchester University
— Have a 3.5 or higher unweighted high school GPA
— Be a US citizen or permanent resident

To apply, students must apply for admission to Manchester, submit the scholarship application with the required essay and video, and provide a letter of recommendation from a teacher or community leader who can speak to their qualifications for the scholarship. The deadline to apply is Jan. 14, 2022.

The committee will review applications and contact semifinalists about next steps. Letters will be mailed to all applicants with decisions by Feb. 28.

Those with questions should contact their admissions counselor or email admitinfo@manchester.edu.

All admitted Manchester undergraduates receive financial aid, and their admissions counselors help them go through the process of finding the best combination to suit their needs.

Learn more at https://www.manchester.edu/about-manchester/news/news-articles/2021-news-articles/manchester-offers-full-ride-multicultural-excellence-in-leadership-scholarship

– Anne Gregory works in media relations and the Office of Strategic Communications at Manchester University.



3) Faith-based organizations to COP26: ‘We must respond with the knowledge of science and the wisdom of spirituality’

A release from the World Council of Churches

In a message to the High-Level Ministerial Segment of the 26th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26), an interfaith liaison group urged a response to the climate emergency that balances science and spirituality.

“We are in a climate emergency,” urges the message, which was read by James Bhagwan, general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, on behalf of the group. “Fixated on profit, our extractive and ultimately unsustainable systems of production and consumption have led us today to this climate emergency.”

The message notes that humanity has been gifted with the ability to think and the freedom to choose. “We must respond with the knowledge of science and the wisdom of spirituality: to know more and to care more,” reads the message. “We see today that climate change is an ethical and spiritual matter.”

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Any successful path to curb emissions must include an existential dimension, the message urges. “The ethical and cosmological narratives to act are keys to a more sustainable future.”

The climate crisis is ultimately linked to a crisis of values, ethics and spirituality, the organizations reflected. “As people of faith we have the vocation to care for our home, Mother Earth,” the message reads. “When we care for our home, we care for the most vulnerable which includes the poor people of the world, the future generations and the ecosystems without voices of their own.”

In every faith there is a clear moral obligation to cooperate in the healing of people and the planet, the message continues. “We want to contribute with a framework of deeply rooted hope,” the text reads. “A hope that is based on science, the courage to act, and a defiant attitude founded on love.”

The message also calls industrialized countries to support vulnerable ones.

“Love calls us to seek climate justice and restoration,” reads the text. “Indigenous spirituality could restore our understanding of interdependence between land, ocean, and life, between generations before us and the ones to come.”

Love calls us to transformation of relationships, systems, and lifestyles, the message concludes. “This transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy to a life-affirming economy must be just, securing livelihoods and wellbeing for all and not just some.”

Read the full Statement from the Faith-Based Organizations to COP26 at www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/statement-from-the-faith-based-organizations-to-cop26.

The World Council of Churches is posting an online photo exhibition portraying the stark reality of climate change, with new daily additions from Nov. 9-14. Go to www.oikoumene.org/what-we-do/care-for-creation-and-climate-justice#climate-change-images.



UPCOMING EVENTS

4) Brethren Academy revises schedule, announces new material, increases continuing education credit for Clergy Tax Seminar

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership has announced a revised schedule, new material, and a continuing education credit of 0.4 units for the Clergy Tax Seminar to take place on Jan. 29, 2022. The seminar will take place online via Zoom from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time). It is intended for students, clergy, and anyone who deals with clergy finances.

The event is sponsored by the academy along with the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry and Bethany Theological Seminary.

Here is the detailed schedule:

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Eastern) – 0.15 CEUs – “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Clergy Taxation, Part 1” – Topics covered: Stimulus checks, advanced child tax credit, who is considered a minster, and what work is considered ministerial.

12:45-2:15 p.m. (Eastern) – 0.15 CEUs – “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Clergy Taxation, Part 2” – Topics covered: Housing exclusion, parsonages and parsonage adjustments, and self-employment taxes, as well as business expenses and how they can reduce self-employment income.

2:45-3:45 p.m. (Eastern) – 0.1 CEUs – A presentation from the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee about the brand new Pastoral Compensation Calculator and Integrated Annual Ministry Agreement that will replace both the start-up and renewal agreements for ministers. This presentation will review critical changes regarding how pastors and congregations negotiate around scale and ministry responsibilities, and is expected to become effective as of the 2022 Annual Conference. Get a sneak peek and volunteer to be a beta tester.

4-5 p.m. (Eastern) – “Completing the Clergy Tax Return”

Registration and cost

Registration is $40 per person. Current students at the Brethren Academy, Bethany Theological Seminary, and Earlham School of Religion students may attend at no cost, although registration is still required. Instructions and handouts and a Zoom link will be sent prior to the event. Registrations are not complete until payment is received. The registration deadline is Jan. 19, 2022.

Leadership

Deb Oskin has been doing clergy tax returns since 1989, when her husband left seminary to pastor a small rural Church of the Brethren congregation. As a pastor’s wife and later as a tax professional, she learned the tax problems and pitfalls associated with the IRS’s identification of clergy as “hybrid employees.” In 2011, after 12 years with H&R Block, she left to start her own tax practice, specializing in clergy taxes. Clergy clients now make up 75 percent of her client base. She was ordained in 2004 when she was called by Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Columbus, Ohio, to be their peace minister to the wider community. She served as Southern Ohio District’s board chair from 2007-2011 and served as Southern Ohio and Kentucky District moderator in 2018. She is currently serving on the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee.

Find out more and register at https://bethanyseminary.edu/brethren-academy/clergy-tax-seminar.



5) ‘Sacred Connections: Advent Soul Tending for Spiritual Leaders’ to be offered to ministers

By Nancy Sollenberger Heishman

The Office of Ministry and Part-time Pastor; Full-time Church, a grant-funded program, are pleased to offer a special time for spiritual refreshment for all ministers during the Advent season. See the description below and consider registering for this free event.

Two virtual events titled “Sacred Connections: Advent Soul Tending for Spiritual Leaders” will be led by one of the program’s “circuit riders,” Erin Matteson, who is an ordained minister and spiritual director.

Matteson extends the invitation to all ministers on Friday, Dec. 3, and Monday, Dec. 13, to “come enjoy a pot of creative contemplative worship to warm your spirit and nourish your soul this Advent season. Scripture and sharing, silence and song, poetry and prayer, imagery and other ingredients will be blended together and served up in a savory dish to not only provide ministers sustenance but promote vitality for the Advent season.”

Photo by Alex Padurariu on unsplash.com

Two different virtual sessions at two different times are offered on each of two dates to help accommodate the varied schedules of ministers. It is hoped that ministers will set aside this brief time to be ministered to and refill as they care for others.

Register for the free virtual events by Nov. 30. Find more information and a registration link at www.brethren.org/webcasts. Contact officeofministry@brethren.org with questions.

Nancy Sollenberger Heishman is director of the Office of Ministry for the Church of the Brethren.



JESUS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: STORIES FROM CONGREGATIONS

6) Welcoming Team at Lititz gets media attention for welcome to Afghan refugees

The Lititz Record Express has published an article about the Welcoming Team at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. The article by Laura Knowles reviews the church’s long tradition of helping refugees and interviews pastor Jim Grossnickle-Batterton.

Citing Jesus’ words of welcome for the stranger in Matthew 25:35, Grossnickle-Batterton said, “In the ultimate act of hospitality, God in the person of Jesus moves into our neighborhood to live with us. As part of our living peace witness, we take Jesus’ words seriously. By welcoming strangers, we meet new neighbors, we encounter God, and we also shine Jesus’ light into the world at the same time.”

The Lititz team is working with Church World Service to prepare an apartment for Afghan refugees, the report said. Find the article by going to https://lititzrecord-pa.newsmemory.com and searching for the edition of Nov. 4, page A6.



7) Brethren bits

Two additional members have been confirmed to the Stewardship of Property Committee recently created by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board. The two new members of the committee are Miller Davis and Brian Messler.

The Global Mission staff have shared prayers of praise and prayer requests for concerns in an email this week. Among them:

Prayers of praise included the “100 new congregations in Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) since 2016, even in the face of challenges” and the visit of EYN president Joel Billi to the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda.

Concerns included a prayer request for a team from the United States that is traveling to the Dominican Republic this weekend to facilitate a meeting “in hopes of reconciling a split in the church that has occurred in recent years, partly along ethnic lines.” The team includes Global Mission co-executive director Eric Miller, Global Food Initiative manager Jeff Boshart, and three church leaders originally from the DR: Arelis and Alix Sable, who is associate pastor of Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, and Eric Ramirez, a church planter in Atlantic Northeast District.

– “Start this Christmas tradition on December 1,” said an invitation from Brethren Press. “Get a copy of 25 Days to Jesus, an Advent devotional for children, for the little ones in your family circle.” Order by visiting www.brethrenpress.com. Find a fun YouTube video about the book at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kjH_eJo6cA.

The story of the Brethren Service Commission is the focus of the next Facebook Live events from the Brethren Historical Library and Archives. A two-part series of online webinars begins next Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 10 a.m., detailing the beginning of the Brethren Service Commission that guided the Church of the Brethren’s service ministries, its origins, and the individuals that championed its formation and success. Go to www.facebook.com/events/386574343108175.

Marie Benner-Rhoades has completed her service as co-chair of Christian Peacemaker Teams, as of the completion of CPT’s bi-annual meetings on Oct. 16, 18, and 20. She will continue to serve on the steering committee as a representative of On Earth Peace, which is one of the sponsoring bodies for CPT.

“Children as Peacebuilders: Equipping Resilient Leaders–Native American Rights” is an online event offered by On Earth Peace at 12 noon (Eastern time) on Saturday, Nov. 20. Said an announcement: “The seminar will invite parents and educators from all around the US to talk about Native American rights in the US and equip them with the tools needed to raise awareness of this issue amongst children.” The speaker is Georgia Esperanza Adams, of Myaamia (Miami) descent and married into the Mingo (Onkweonwe) community, who has worked on language revitalization efforts through Bowling Green State University to revive the Mingo language. She has run children’s camps and language revitalization camps in northwest Ohio for the Mingo community over the years, in an effort to bring back a nearly extinct language and many cultural traditions. She is an activist for Native American sovereignty rights, and for the preservation and restoration of native habitats. Find out more at www.onearthpeace.org/cap-native-american-rights.

The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference office is calling for nominations for the ballot to come before the 2022 Conference. “You can help shape the future of the church! Each member of the Church of the Brethren is invited to recommend possible nominees,” said announcements on Facebook for the various open positions on the ballot. For more information and to make a nomination go to www.brethren.org/ac/nominations. Submit all nominations by Dec. 1. “The earlier, the better!” said the announcements.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

The 2021 Virlina District Conference takes place this weekend, Nov. 12-13, in Roanoke, Va. The theme is “Wait on the Lord” from Isaiah 40:31: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall rise up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Friday night’s featured speaker is Annual Conference moderator David Sollenberger.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is joining with Mid-Atlantic District to promote the district’s 40th annual Disaster Response Auction this Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Shipley Arena at the Carroll County Agricultural Center in Westminster, Md. Auction proceeds support disaster relief and Brethren Disaster Ministries. Find out more at www.madcob.com/disaster-response-auction.

“Alive in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) is the theme for the Roundtable regional youth conference to be held Feb. 25-27, 2022, at Bridgewater (Va.) College. The speaker will be Chris Michael.

The Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio, is seeking volunteers, as the community “is working to get back to more normal activity!” said an announcement from Southern Ohio and Kentucky District. Volunteers must be vaccinated and willing to wear a mask/face shield. Volunteer opportunities include pushing residents in wheelchairs to activities, therapy, the Beauty Shop, and Senior Fit exercise; serving as a clerk in the Gift Shop and in the This-n-That Shop; doing Christmas decorating; and assisting with activities. Contact 937-547-7682 or melinda.harter@bhrc.org.

The National Council of Churches is reminding churches to share with families the deadline of Monday, Nov. 15, at 11:59 p.m. for non-filers to sign up for the Child Tax Credit. “The White House digital toolkit provides ways for faith groups to spread the word on how families with kids can get a monthly payment,” said the NCC newsletter. “Low-income families with children are eligible for this crucial tax relief even if they have not made enough money to be required to file taxes.” Find the online toolkit at www.whitehouse.gov/child-tax-credit/toolkit.

Religion News Service has published results of a study by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected churches in the US. The study surveyed 2,074 churches from 38 denominations, showing that “the pandemic has had a profound impact across the religious spectrum, and that some churches are faring better than others,” according to scholar Scott Thumma. A few of the findings: 8 in 10 churches now provide hybrid services both in person and online; almost a quarter have “moderate to severe conflicts about pandemic restrictions”; and “67 percent of clergy said 2020 was the hardest year of their ministry.” Perhaps most crucial: “The mode of delivery of worship services was a major factor in whether median attendance increased or fell. For example, the 15 percent of churches that met solely in person saw the steepest decline in attendance–15.7 percent. The 5 percent of congregations that offered only online worship had a decline of 7.3 percent. But the 80 percent of congregations offering hybrid worship experienced an overall growth of 4.5 percent.” Find the article at https://religionnews.com/2021/11/10/amid-covid-19-most-churches-provide-hybrid-worship-half-stopped-picnics.

Dena Ross Jennings, former board chair of On Earth Peace and a physician and musician in Virginia, was one of those speaking and performing at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 6. The event titled “My Light, My Story: Inspiration Is Everywhere!” was livestreamed from the Millennium Stage as part of a “Livestream: Celebrating Culture and Lights: Diwali at the Kennedy Center” series. The description of the event noted that “musician Dena Jennings used her Rangoli book as her Advent wreath and created music for it. Make a Rangoli Book of your own and take it home to remember that inspiration is everywhere!” Go to www.kennedy-center.org/whats-on/millennium-stage/2021/november/diwali-lights-6.


Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren. All submissions are subject to editing. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contributors to this issue include Anne Gregory, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Fran Massie, Debbie Noffsinger, David Steele, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Please send news tips and submissions to cobnews@brethren.org . Find the Newsline archive at www.brethren.org/news . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters and make subscription changes at www.brethren.org/intouch . Unsubscribe by using the link at the top of any Newsline email.


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