Newsline for March 26, 2022

“But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed…. In your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:14-16a).

NEWS
1) Mission and Ministry Board receives year-end financial reporting

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries directs grants to CWS work on Ukraine, Haiti earthquake rebuilding, new project site in Tennessee

3) ACT Alliance, WCC delegation visits Hungary, Ukraine, and Romania with a focus on humanitarian needs, church response

4) WCC to presidents of Russia and Ukraine: ‘A peaceful solution is in your hands alone’

5) Material Resources program sends relief shipments to South Sudan, Haiti, Guatemala

PERSONNEL
6) David Shumate to retire from leadership of Virlina District

7) Joe Vecchio to retire from the Pacific Southwest District staff

UPCOMING EVENTS
8) Children’s Disaster Services offers two volunteer trainings this spring

9) Presentation to explore Manchester’s deep connections to UN

10) Song and Story Fest scheduled for Camp Pine Lake in early July

FEATURE
11) Nothing quite compares to this: A reflection on the war in Ukraine

12) Changing course, ‘shifting up’ to work on race

13) Brethren bits: Update from pastor Alexander Zazhytko of the Chernigov Brethren, applicants sought for Archival Internship, second Global Check-in & Prayer, Margi South translation of the New Testament, ‘The Historic Peace Churches: Integrating Theology and Practice for Peacebuilding’ panel at the Carter School at GMU, and 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. 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) Mission and Ministry Board receives year-end financial reporting

By Ed Woolf

The 2021 year-end financial reporting to this Spring’s Mission and Ministry Board meeting covered the Church of the Brethren denomination’s Core Ministries and its self-funding ministries including Brethren Press, Material Resources, and the Conference Office. Special purpose funds, including the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF), which supports Brethren Disaster Ministries; the Global Food Initiative Fund, which supports the Global Food Initiative (GFI); and the Emerging Global Mission Fund were also reported on.

Core Ministries

Congregational giving to Core Ministries totaled $1.6 million. This was down $87,000 from 2020 and $168,000 behind budget. At $709,000, individual giving to Core Ministries was up $135,000 from last year and $164,000 ahead of budget. This is the highest individual giving total since 2009.

Director-level expenses were underspent by $542,000 with staff not traveling and events either being postponed or moved to a virtual/hybrid model.

Altogether, Core Ministries ended 2021 with a net surplus of $214,000. Along with the surplus, the Church of the Brethren was able to set aside $200,000 for future budget shortfalls. For the first time since 2014, Core Ministries finished with a net asset balance over $2 million.

The Core Ministries are considered crucial to the denomination’s program and include the General Secretary’s office, Global Mission, Office of Ministry, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, Brethren Volunteer Service, FaithX, Discipleship Ministries, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Older Adult Ministry, Intercultural Ministries, Brethren Historical Library and Archives, and departments that sustain and serve the program work including Mission Advancement, finance, information technology, human resources, buildings and properties, Messenger magazine, and communications.

Treasurer Ed Woolf presents financial reports to the Mission and Ministry Board’s Spring meeting. Photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Brethren Press

A $100,000 special distribution from the Gahagen Trust to be used for expenses related to children’s curriculum, along with some staff costs shifted to Core Ministries for 2021, helped Brethren Press close the year with a $118,000 surplus. Brethren Press ended the year with a net asset deficit of $433,000.

Starting in 2022, Brethren Press will be part of Core Ministries and will no longer be considered a self-funding ministry. There is no plan to immediately pay down the Brethren Press deficit as the deficit will be addressed after Brethren Press has had a couple of years to operate within Core Ministries.

Material Resources

With the continuing pandemic, donations for Material Resources were not able to reach pre-pandemic levels. Primary sources of income, including processing health kits, medical supplies, and quilts, were all reduced in 2021. As a result, the significant decrease in service fees and processing income led to a deficit of $21,000 for Material Resources. With this loss, Material Resources has a net asset deficit of $185,000.

The board’s Stewardship of Properties task team is considering questions about property management at both the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., including further assessment of Material Resources. The team will be bringing recommendations to the board.

Conference Office

The Conference Office realized lower expenses in 2021 due to a virtual Annual Conference. The lower expenses helped the Conference Office finish with a $46,000 surplus last year. Built-up surpluses from prior Annual Conferences helped the Conference Office absorb the significant losses caused by no Annual Conference in 2020. With the surplus from 2021, the Conference Office net asset balance increased to $436,000.

Brethren Disaster Ministries

District disaster auctions that raise funds for Brethren Disaster Ministries were held for the first time since 2019, raising $530,000 in support of the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF). Donations totaled $1.7 million, an increase of $582,000 from 2020 when the district fundraisers were cancelled due to the pandemic. The EDF ended the year with a balance of $1.94 million.

Global Food Initiative (GFI)

An appeal was sent out to individuals and congregations late last year after the GFI Fund balance had decreased to $51,000. With the help of this appeal, the fund received $215,000 in donations, an increase of $9,000 from the prior year, and it ended the year with a balance of $106,000. As pandemic restrictions are being lifted, staff are starting to travel, plan trips, and hold meetings for volunteers to both financially support and actively participate in GFI programs.

Emerging Global Mission Fund

The Emerging Global Mission Fund ended 2021 with a balance of $115,000, an increase of $5,500 from 2020. In the past, grants have been used to fund church missions, new and emerging international missions, and church planting in the US.

Total net assets and investments

At $48.5 million, the Church of the Brethren’s total net assets increased $6.2 million from 2020. The increase is due to investment gains, the large surplus in Core Ministries, an increase in restricted giving, and a significant increase in bequest giving.

The denomination’s investments are managed by the Brethren Foundation of Brethren Benefit Trust. At $41.7 million, investments increased $5.5 million in 2021. The increases in both net assets and investments leave the Church of the Brethren in a very healthy financial position entering 2022.

Thank you

The Church of the Brethren remains humbled and sincerely grateful for both the increase in giving and for the active participation in support of our denominational ministries this past year. In 2021, the Church of the Brethren continued to issue grants from the Ministry Assistance Fund, EDF, GFI Fund, the Brethren Faith in Action Fund, and other designated funds–including grants for Afghan evacuees, grants for the Haiti earthquake response, and grants for other disaster responses, providing mutual support for the larger church body.

[The above amounts were provided prior to completion of the 2021 audit. Complete financial information will be available in the Church of the Brethren, Inc. audit report published in June 2022.]

— Ed Woolf is treasurer of the Church of the Brethren. Find his video report and background documents for the Spring meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board at www.brethren.org/mmb/meeting-info.


2) Brethren Disaster Ministries directs grants to CWS work on Ukraine, Haiti earthquake rebuilding, new project site in Tennessee

The Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have directed grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to support the work of Church World Service (CWS) responding to the Ukraine refugee crisis; to support long-term programing and a new house construction phase of the 2021 Haiti earthquake response; and to finance the opening and initial phase of a new Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project site doing flood recovery in Waverly, Tenn.; among other recent grants.

Ukraine

A grant of $25,000 supports the CWS assessment, program development, and initial response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. CWS has existing partner organizations responding to the refugee crisis in Moldovia, Romania, and other Balkan countries. CWS staff are meeting with these partners to design and begin implementing a larger scale response, including a plan to help the CWS member denominations such as the Church of the Brethren identify unmet needs.

This initial small grant will support CWS in assessing needs and developing and beginning a response. Additional larger grants are anticipated to support the longer-term response of CWS and other organizations.

One of the first new homes being built as part of the joint response to the Aug. 14, 2021, earthquake by the Haiti Church of the Brethren/US Church of the Brethren. Photo credit Haiti Church of the Brethren

Haiti

A grant of $220,000 will fund long-term programing and a new house construction phase of the Church of the Brethren response to the 2021 Haiti earthquake. The joint Brethren Disaster Ministries and Haitian Church of the Brethren response has continued for several months, including distribution of supplies, social-emotional-spiritual programing for earthquake survivors, and medical programing provided by the Haiti Medical Project, with EDF funding.

In the community of Saut-Mathurine, a depot for building supplies and temporary housing for construction workers is being built as the basement section of a new Church of the Brethren building, which in the future will become a meeting room and housing for the pastor in addition to being a foundation for the Haitian Church and Global Mission office to work toward a new church building. By the end of 2021, work had begun on five homes for disaster survivors, with a goal of building at least 25 new homes.

Tennessee

A grant of $30,000 finances the opening and initial phase of a new Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project site for flood recovery in Waverly, Tenn. On Aug. 21-23, 2021, a line of storms and rain moved through middle Tennessee causing catastrophic flash flooding in the counties of Dickson, Hickman, Houston, and Humphreys. The city of Waverly (population 4,000) experienced the most impact. Local partners report that it only took about 12 minutes to wash away cars, cell towers, bridges, roads, and hundreds of homes. The flooding caused the death of 20 community members.

While evaluating Waverly as a potential rebuilding site, Brethren Disaster Ministries found FEMA approved 954 families for Individual Assistance funds. Even with this assistance, Disaster Case Management in the area reported 600 families with some form of need they could not meet on their own, including 250 homes that were destroyed. Six months after the flooding, one church is still serving three meals a day to survivors, many of whom do not have homes or workable kitchens in which to prepare their own meals.

This new rebuilding project will serve qualified families identified by the Humphreys County Long Term Recovery Group. Due to the reduction in volunteers, extent of the damage, and the lack of progress in the initial clean-up, there may also be a need for debris removal in addition to repairs and rebuilding of homes. Weekly volunteer groups are expected to begin arriving in April.

Maryland

A grant of $5,000 supports the Somerset County (Md.) Long Term Recovery Group as they prepare for recovery work in the Chesapeake Bay area following tidal flooding in October 2021. More than 150 families in Somerset and Dorchester counties in Maryland experienced flooding and reached out to Maryland Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (MDVOAD) for support with clean-up and help to repair and rebuild.

The Mid-Atlantic District of the Church of the Brethren is home to some Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers who are now looking at serving more frequently at this recovery location due to the closer proximity. Plans are underway to have work teams rebuilding in Somerset or Dorchester County for several days each month.

Delaware

A grant of $5,000 supports Wilmington (Del.) Church of the Brethren in long-term recovery efforts following significant flooding in the community, caused by Tropical Storm Ida last August. Record-setting rainfall caused flooding in multiple states, including in the Eleventh Street Bridge Community of Wilmington, where more than 240 homes were affected.

Ed Olkowski, a member of the Wilmington church and a trained Brethren Disaster Ministries disaster project leader, has been involved in the recovery effort by helping with the gutting of homes, attending meetings, and becoming a member representative to the effort on behalf of Atlantic Northeast District and Brethren Disaster Ministries. Other members of the church also hope to be a positive support to affected neighborhoods with the availability of grant funds.

To give financial support to these and other grants from the EDF, go to https://churchofthebrethren.givingfuel.com/bdm.


3) ACT Alliance, WCC delegation visits Hungary, Ukraine, and Romania with a focus on humanitarian needs, church response

A release from the World Council of Churches

A delegation from ACT Alliance and the World Council of Churches (WCC) visited Hungary, Ukraine, and Romania on March 14-18, focusing on humanitarian needs and church response.

Meeting with Hungarian Inter-Church Aid, the delegation visited refugee centers in Budapest, then held a roundtable with ecumenical partners in Hungary. The group also visited the Ukraine and Romanian border to see the work done by Hungarian Inter-Church Aid in support of refugees. The delegation also connected with Aidrom, making border visits and learning about the rapidly changing needs of refugees.

The delegation was received by His Eminence Father Iustin, bishop of Maramuresh and Satmar of the Romanian Orthodox Church, learning about the situation at two crossing points for Ukrainian refugees. His Eminence Iustin explained to them that the Romanian Orthodox Church is very dynamically and actively involved in the reception and in taking Christian care of all those crossing the border into Romania, whether they stay or transition freely on the way to western countries. The Ukrainian refugees are provided with medicines, food, clothes, accommodation, or guidance to destinations.

An important facet of care at these crossing points comes from priests and volunteers who show love, warmth and generosity. The Petrova Monastery is hosting more than 50 mothers with children for an indefinite period, providing accommodation, meals, and other care. Through collaboration with the educational authorities and institutions, children are also given the opportunity to attend school and learn in their native language within the Ukrainian communities in the area.

A refugee family from Ukraine wave upon arrival at the Vama Siret border crossing, Romania. The Vama Siret border crossing connects northeast Romania with Ukraine. Located north of Siret and further in the south the city of Suceava, the crossing connects Romania with the Ukrainian village of Terebleche and further north the city of Chernivtsi. In the 24 hours prior to the taking of this photo, government figures indicated more than 50,000 people crossed the border in search of refuge, an estimated 20 percent of whom were expected to stay in Romania rather than transit into other European countries. Photo copyright: Albin Hillert/WCC

The Romanian Orthodox Church is also joining many other Christians across the world in praying for peace.

WCC deputy general secretary Isabel Apawo Phiri said that meeting with refugees and those helping them was a sharp reminder of the appalling and escalating impact of the conflict in Ukraine on civilians. “The women, men, and children of Ukraine are suffering from what appears to be ongoing indiscriminate attacks,” she said. “Hospitals, schools, kindergartens, and residential areas–refugees are pouring forth from these spaces with firsthand stories of deep trauma.”

Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, said that as international humanitarian law continues to be disregarded, civilians are bearing the brunt of the conflict. “It is deeply disturbing to witness the effects of what may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Prove. “Humanitarian aid groups and churches are unified in calling for a ceasefire and negotiations to end this tragic conflict.”

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, general secretary of ACT Alliance, spoke on the second day of the visit, as the delegation met with Hungarian Inter-Church Aid. “At the airport, they have a welcome center and also, around Budapest, different places where they are providing all kinds of support for Ukrainian refugees,” said de Faria. “By today, you have more than 3 million refugees in neighboring countries, and we will be visiting and talking and checking how is the situation of them and the challenges they face in this war.”

More photos of the solidarity visit by ACT Alliance and the WCC are at https://oikoumene.photoshelter.com/galleries/C0000_4U7GBA7EYQ/G0000P7vh8b4EYew/Solidarity-visit-Eastern-Europe.


4) WCC to presidents of Russia and Ukraine: ‘A peaceful solution is in your hands alone’

A release from the World Council of Churches

In a letter to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, president of the Russian Federation, and Volodymyr Oleksandrovytch Zelensky, president of Ukraine, World Council of Churches (WCC) acting general secretary Ioan Sauca urged the leaders to listen to the cries of their own faithful people.

“I hear in the words of the First Lady of Ukraine the weeping of the Ukrainian mothers who lost their children, of the families who lost their dear ones, the despair of those under the ruins of bombed houses, of those dehydrated and starving without hope of escape in the absence of secure humanitarian corridors,” Sauca wrote. “But I also hear the pain and suffering of Russian mothers, wives, children and parents who receive their dear ones in a coffin, from this illogical fratricidal war.”

Sauca reflected that there is suffering and despair on both sides. “And while the war rages, I am especially troubled by the disregard for the most fundamental moral and legal principles demanding protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure,” he wrote. “I appeal as earnestly as I can for civilians to be spared from further attacks, and that humanitarian corridors to enable them to escape from peril be established, maintained and secured.”

The WCC has already made statements condemning the war, calling for respect for international humanitarian law and for solving the conflict through dialogue. “We can make yet another statement, but I did not feel that it could really help,” wrote Sauca. “Excellencies, the end of conflict and the agreement on a peaceful solution is in your hands alone.”

The whole world is searching for signs of hope for a peaceful solution, continue Sauca. “You are two nations with two internationally recognised independent lands,” he wrote. “Yet, you are and will always be sister nations.”

The WCC continues to be an open and safe platform where people meet, share information, and listen to one another–even if they disagree, noted Sauca. “We do our best to be the mediator that brings about peace, unity and reconciliation,” he said. “Please, help us achieve that.”

Sauca concluded his letter by urging the leaders to stop the war immediately, ask soldiers to return to their families and put an end to all hostilities.

“I am aware that things are not easy since on each side there are hardliners who want either everything or nothing,” Sauca wrote. “Yet, without understanding and compromise which brotherly love brings about, lasting peace cannot be achieved.”

Read the full letter of the WCC acting general secretary to the presidents of Russia and Ukraine at www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/wcc-acting-general-secretary-letter-to-the-presidents-of-russia-and-ukraine.


5) Material Resources program sends relief shipments to South Sudan, Haiti, Guatemala

By Loretta Wolf

The Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program–which processes, warehouses, and ships relief materials on behalf of a number of partner organizations–recently made shipments to South Sudan, Haiti, and Guatemala. Warehouses are located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

Material Resources warehouse staff Scott Senseney and Jeffrey Brown loaded two 40-foot sea containers with Lutheran World Relief quilts and kits destined for South Sudan, weighing 71,432 pounds. See information about LWR programs in South Sudan at https://lwr.org/where‐we‐work/south‐sudan.

Medical supplies and equipment filling one 40-foot container were shipped to Haiti, and another 40-foot container was shipped to Guatemala. The two containers were shipped on behalf of Brothers Brother Foundation.

Staff at work in the Material Resources warehouse. Photo by Terry Goodger

Driver Ed Palsgrove also picked up two trailer loads of medical supplies from a Pennsylvania donor. These supplies will be sorted and prepared for future shipments.

Materials Resource also was happy to pick up several containers of handicrafts for SERRV from the Baltimore pier. They were from Bangladesh and the Philippines. You can see the great handcrafts SERRV offers at www.serrv.org.

— Loretta Wolf is director of Material Resources for the Church of the Brethren. Find out more about the Material Resources ministry at www.brethren.org/brethrenservicecenter/materialresources.


PERSONNEL

6) David Shumate to retire from leadership of Virlina District

The Virlina District of the Church of the Brethren has announced the retirement of district executive minister David Shumate, as of Dec. 31. He has led the district for almost 30 years, since Jan. 1, 1993.

Shumate is currently the longest-serving middle judicatory staff person in the Church of the Brethren as well as in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

His service to the denomination includes a term as Annual Conference moderator, presiding over the annual meeting in 2009. He served on three Annual Conference study committees: World Mission Philosophy and Global Church Structure (1996-1998), Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century (2013-2018), and the Review and Evaluation Committee (2015-2017).

He has served on the denomination’s Ministry Advisory Council and Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. In 2014, he concluded 16 years as a member of the New Church Development Advisory Committee, during his tenure compiling a manual for new church development, helping plan nine events, and teaching two courses for the Training in Ministry (TRIM) program of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership in conjunction with those conferences.

He has written for Brethren Press, including three issues of A Guide for Biblical Studies and one volume for the People of the Covenant series.

His leadership of Virlina District has included service on various committees and roles within the Council of District Executives including most recently as treasurer, and previously as chair.

Shumate has had a lifetime commitment to ecumenism. He is currently president of the Virginia Council of Churches, a role he has held twice–first from 2002 until 2004, and from 2021 to the present. He formerly was treasurer for the council. In 2007, he received the “Faith in Action” award from the council, an honor that recognizes people who “exemplify personal faith commitment and who build bridges that make human community possible.”

He is a graduate of Concord University in Athens, W.Va., and earned a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary in 1985. He was ordained by Crab Orchard Church of the Brethren and Virlina District. Prior to his service as district executive, he pastored in Illinois and Virginia.


7) Joe Vecchio to retire from the Pacific Southwest District staff

For the past 29 years, the Church of the Brethren’s Pacific Southwest District has come to count on Joe Vecchio to answer the phones, send letters and emails, build databases and websites, and be a friendly and helpful presence as the district’s administrative assistant.

Vecchio has decided the time has come for him to move into retirement and to make plans for this next part of his life. An exact date for his retirement has not yet been set, but it will be by the end of 2022.

There will be an opportunity to thank him for his many years of service at the district conference in November.

The district will begin the search for a new staff person in May, with hopes of hiring an administrative assistant before the end of summer, and to have some time for crossover between Vecchio and the new staff. Contact district executive minister Russ Matteson by email at de@pswdcob.org to receive information on the position.


UPCOMING EVENTS

8) Children’s Disaster Services offers two volunteer trainings this spring

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is holding two volunteer trainings this spring, in Pennsylvania in mid-May and in Washington State in early June.

CDS is a program of Brethren Disaster Ministries. Since 1980 it has been meeting the needs of children by setting up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation. CDS volunteers are specially trained to respond to traumatized children and to provide a calm, safe and reassuring presence in the midst of the chaos created disasters.

Registrations are currently open on the CDS website at www.brethren.org/cds for the following trainings:

May 13-14 at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren

June 3-4 at Bear Creek United Methodist Church in Woodinville, Wash., near Seattle.


9) Presentation to explore Manchester’s deep connections to UN

A release from Manchester University

What connection could Manchester University in northern Indiana have to the United Nations–a global organization that brings nations together to discuss common problem and find shared solutions in a troubled world?

Andrew Cordier, who graduated from Manchester in 1922, was a key player in drafting the UN founding charter and a stalwart advocate for peace. Later a professor at the college in North Manchester, he attended the Dumbarton Oaks Conference to help write the proposal for the UN and later officially joined as executive secretary to the president of the general assembly.

Manchester seniors Christopher Carroll, Omar Gadzhiev, and Bradley Miley will talk about Cordier, the United Nations, and Manchester’s historical relationship with the institution at a presentation at 11 a.m. on Monday, April 4, in Cordier Auditorium on the North Manchester campus.

The presentation may be livestreamed on the university’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ManchesterUniv, and then remain there as a recording.

“Manchester and the United Nations: The Legacy of Andrew Cordier” is part of the Ideas, Values, and the Arts series at Manchester, intended to expose students to a variety of cultural, artistic, and intellectual experiences.

Manchester is one of six colleges across the nation grounded in the values and traditions of the Church of the Brethren, a historic peace church, and Cordier had a bold vision for peace among nations.

“A war-worn world needs our philosophy and examples of peace, a luxury-mad world, with yawning chasms between rich and poor, needs our examples of the simple life,” he said in a letter to a past Manchester president.

Manchester in 1948 launched the first undergraduate peace studies program in the world.

“Manchester and the United Nations: The Legacy of Andrew Cordier” is part of the Ideas, Values, and the Arts series at Manchester University. Manchester seniors Christopher Carroll, Omar Gadzhiev, and Bradley Miley will present at 11 a.m. on Monday, April 4, in Cordier Auditorium. The university may stream the event on its Facebook page.
Andrew Cordier. Photos courtesy of Manchester University

The presentation will conclude with a discussion about Manchester’s award-winning Model UN Club. Primary organizer of this presentation is Gabriela Ramalho Tafoya, assistant professor of political science.

— Anne Gregory, Communications and Media Relations director at Manchester University, provided this release.


10) Song and Story Fest scheduled for Camp Pine Lake in early July

Song and Story Fest 2022 on the theme “Into the HEARTland: Healing What Divides Us” is scheduled for July 3-9 at Camp Pine Lake in Eldora, Iowa. Song and Story Fest is a unique family camp featuring Church of the Brethren musicians and storytellers, with co-sponsorship from On Earth Peace, organized by Ken Kline Smeltzer.

The annual event is usually held before or after the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, at a location relatively close to the Conference. This year’s is the 26th annual Song and Story Fest.

Photo courtesy of Ken Kline Smeltzer

“As we enter the Heartland of the country, let us draw together to sing, tell stories, dance, listen, and share with one another,” said an announcement. “We are living in a world that is divided: by ideas, identities, loyalties, the places we live, learn, and worship. We will examine our own hearts and thinking, and work to get to the heart of these divisions, exploring how we might come together and heal our communities, each other, and ourselves.”

COVID protocols will include gathering and eating outdoors, with dispersed sleeping arrangements, and the request that all attendees be vaccinated and boosted except for children under age 5. Masks will be worn indoors and when participants are close together.

Storytellers and workshop leaders will include Susan Boyer, Kathy Guisewite, Jonathan Hunter, Jim Lehman, and Barbara West. Campfire, workshop, and concert musicians will include Rhonda and Greg Baker, Louise Brodie, Jenny and Jeffrey Faus, Chris Good, Erin and Cody Flory Robertson, Shawn Kirchner, Peg Lehman, and Mike Stern.

The schedule will include intergenerational gatherings and worship, workshops for adults, children, and youth, as well as family time, recreation, sharing circles, music-making, campfires, and concerts or a folk dance.

Registration includes all meals, on-site facilities, and leadership, and is based on age. Children age 4 and under are welcome at no charge. Registration fees for other ages: adults $360, teens $240, children ages 5 to 12 $150, maximum total per family $1,000. Registrations after June 10 add 10 percent as a late fee. Daily fees also are available.

Go to www.onearthpeace.org/song_and_story_fest_2022. For questions, or if you need financial help to attend, contact Ken Kline Smeltzer at bksmeltz@comcast.net.


FEATURE

11) Nothing quite compares to this: A reflection on the war in Ukraine

By Charles Franzén

As director of Humanitarian and Disaster Response for World Relief, and someone who has attended a Church of the Brethren congregation for many years, I am stunned and saddened by what is happening in Ukraine.

As a member of the Integral Alliance, World Relief has witnessed many natural and man-made disasters over the years. Nothing quite compares to this. The scale and rapidity of destruction, and the potential economic and humanitarian impacts that are starting to be felt across the globe, make this a peculiarly unique human-generated crisis.

World Relief was founded almost 80 years ago to respond to the depredations and destruction that resulted from World War II. What we see today is an eerie foretelling and mirroring of that vast cataclysm, which impacted everyone on earth.

In the past 20 years, World Relief has resettled more than 13,000 Ukrainians, 40 percent of the total who have immigrated to the United States prior to the current conflict. Our hearts are joined with the Ukrainian people; their suffering is our suffering; and their pain is our pain.

Refugees from Ukraine arriving in Slovakia by train. Photo by Jana Cavojska, courtesy of Integra

To respond to this unprecedented crisis, World Relief has launched an appeal to support our partners, both international and local, who are working tirelessly today in western Ukraine, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, Poland, and Hungary. They are providing basic needs, accommodating displaced people, providing transport for people to borders, and receiving refugees crossing the border to other countries. They are linking refugees with host communities and a myriad of other activities to ensure that those who wish to remain are supported where they are, and those who wish to flee are provided the means to do just that. In this harrowing time, supply corridors are being established between the outside and those remaining in Ukraine. Also, needs are being provided to those who must endure periods of waiting and uncertainty as they are being registered at the various borders.

While we grieve at the losses, we must care for the living by providing basic needs through local churches and local church networks. As our appeal gains strength, World Relief will expand its capacity to assist those in need and establish new partnerships with those working on the ground.

Many readers will understand that in this part of the world, disinformation and data manipulation are now being used as weapons of war. This weaponization of information, so familiar to us from totalitarian regimes of the past, is something we have to guard against. Our neutrality as humanitarian aid workers is necessary, both as a witness on behalf of the truth, but as Christians called by Jesus to love our neighbors as we would ourselves. Although this is a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, it is–interestingly enough–not a conflict between peoples; it is a conflict of a supremacist ideology rooted in the old Czarist imperial construct and the vast multi-national empire of the former Soviet Union.

The Church of the Brethren has an important role to play in praying for the people of Ukraine, and for the people of Russia as well, and for the leaders of both nations. It is only through dialogue and diplomacy that the weapons of war will be silenced and it is only through prayer and forgiveness that these modern swords will be transformed into the plowshares of peace and a restoration of sanity.

Ukraine with its 45 million people is not the only crisis in the world. World Relief works in many places where vulnerabilities are legion and where the needs of poor people have been neglected just as long as nations have existed. While we grieve for the people of Ukraine, and look for the many ways we can help, let us not forget the brothers and sisters whose essential lifesaving and transformative programs we support in other vulnerable parts of the globe. As Jesus said, the suffering of even one of my sheep is an unbearable suffering for all.

We must pray for peace and restorative justice for all of God’s creation.

– Charles Franzén is a member of Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren.


12) Changing course, ‘shifting up’ to work on race

An interview with Greg Davidson Laszakovits by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Over the last year or more, Greg Davidson Laszakovits has made a lot of changes, all by choice. Although it was a difficult year for many reasons, on a professional level 2021 was good—but “it’s not been tidy.” Tidy is not a word commonly used by those doing the work of healing racism, and Laszakovits is no exception.

Formerly a lead pastor at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, Laszakovits in recent years felt restlessness, a need to get active and “move on things…a sense that even just being in the pastorate, even in a wonderful congregation like E-town, I felt a tug to something more.

“How can I be part of racial justice in the world?” he wondered.

Prior to entering the pastorate, Laszakovits had done work for the denomination and with the ecumenical community. After completing seminary, he held a series of positions with the Church of the Brethren including a term as program volunteer in the former Brethren Witness office; a term as director of the Washington Office; a term as a mission worker in Brazil. And he has been active in partnerships with agencies like Church World Service.

Greg Davidson Laszakovits giving a video presentation for his company called GDL Insight. He is making available a short video presentation on anti-racism titled “Actor, Ally, Accomplice” for use by Church of the Brethren members and congregations, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVm2R0tQs0Y.

After 15 years of very fulfilling pastoral ministry at Elizabethtown, the decision to seek a new direction ended up being freeing. He still pastors part-time at University Park Church of the Brethren in Maryland, but feels he has become a better pastor by also doing other things. It’s a way of getting back to old Brethren ideas of church leadership.

The pull to work on healing racism came to focus after the murder of George Floyd, when in his conversations with people working in the for-profit and business world Laszakovits heard talk about the need for real change. He thought to himself, let’s coach them in a way to change that has integrity—that’s not just a “check the box” reaction for public relations or to boost sales.

Then Laszakovits was approached by an organization that asked him to help put together an online training series from a leadership perspective. The training addressed the question, “How can we be leaders who are not just racially aware but leaders making a difference for racial justice?”

That training series has now been offered to hundreds of people. Laszakovits has found it inspiring to see a tech businesses offering it to employees, a city government in Colorado offered it to all its employees, a sports department at a college using it.

As a straight white male who is middle class and middle aged, Laszakovits is well aware that he “checks all the privilege boxes” himself. However, “there’s a niche for folks with privilege to fill,” he said. “How do we leverage that privilege? One way is by white people talking to white people and holding one another accountable.” He adds that “this work must go hand-in-hand with learning from people and communities of color who can also help hold us accountable, especially when it comes to places where we may hold racist thoughts or feelings totally unaware.”

In just the brief time he has been doing this work, Laszakovits has discovered a variety of concerns to keep in mind and roadblocks to avoid. For example, diversity training may result in white people becoming more afraid of speaking honestly, and more afraid of making mistakes, which drives farther underground the topics that need open discussion. In another example of a common pitfall, he reminds: “You can’t just have a process to use and check off.” And, most essentially, “you still need to be in dialogue with people of color.”

He has discovered some answers and solutions: He aims to create spaces for white people to talk honestly and air issues. He emphasizes that this kind of process is just one piece of a much larger puzzle. You can’t heal racism in just one step. He asks people to remember that “this is about how we become better people. How do we become better followers of Jesus?”

Leadership development

At the same time, Laszakovits also has heard a call to develop and grow good leadership. “I prefer the term leadership coaching,” he said. “Working with individuals or groups of individuals to find out what things we can learn to be better leaders.”

He thinks of it as an “inside-out” process, first prompting leaders to ask questions like, What’s going on within me? What are my rough edges and how can I work on those? How can I improve? It is called emotional intelligence by some, but Laszakovits focuses on doing organizational development alongside the inner work. Working with organizations, he wants to help them through a discovery process. For example, in a church the process would including interviewing congregational leaders and members, looking at church records, identifying strengths, and working on a plan to develop and grow.

It is “amazing what blind spots we have in an organization,” he said, noting that organizations can’t avoid those blind spots until they intentionally begin to see them.

He works with start-up organizations and also helps to do “turn-arounds” for established organizations. Not all are churches—his services have been used by a variety of professional organizations and businesses. But his long experience with the church at a variety of levels has helped him understand common, shared dynamics. One experience that taught him a lot was his work trying to get an anti-racism effort off the ground as a program volunteer on the Church of the Brethren denominational staff. Such efforts had been made before he took it on, by well-known longterm staff members, all without marked success. He tried a focus on struggling congregations with predominantly white memberships located in areas with changing demographics; created a resource library; connected with a similar program by the Mennonites. And then, he was called to do something else and the program went the way of its predecessors.

Despite this experience and others, Laszakovits thinks “we sell ourselves short in the church.” He points to the ways that seminary training and pastoral experience have helped him build skills and learnings that are applicable to the world outside the church walls. And he’s excited by what happens as he applies pastoral and ministry skills in settings with people who may have no experience of church.

“The exciting part of doing something new and generative is the sense of impact,” he said. “Any transformation that’s happening in people show I’m on track as a follower of Jesus. Impact means I leave and they keep going. That’s the multiplicative effect that should be in the church. That’s the gospel, one person to another.

“We have allowed evangelism and that one-to-one impact to be about only if they are saved or in the church,” he said. He contends that in the Gospels, the focus is how lives are being changed, and how that change is passed on.

“That’s how communities change too,” he said, “then you get critical mass. When I talk about cultural change that’s what I’m talking about. It starts to well up from the inside out.”

– Laszakovits is making available a short video presentation on anti-racism titled “Actor, Ally, Accomplice” for use by Church of the Brethren members and congregations, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVm2R0tQs0Y. Contact Laszakovits at GDL Insight, gdl@gdlinsight.com, 717-333-1614.


13) Brethren bits

— The Brethren Historical Library and Archives at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., seeks applicants for its Archival Internship Program. The purpose of the program is to develop interest in vocations related to archives and libraries and/or Brethren history. The program will provide the intern with work assignments in the BHLA and with opportunities to develop professional contacts. Work includes processing archival materials, writing descriptive inventories, preparing books for cataloging, responding to reference requests, and assisting researchers in the library. Professional contacts may include attending archival and library conferences and workshops, visits to libraries and archives in the Chicago area, and participation in a Brethren Historical Committee meeting (pending COVID-19 restrictions). BHLA is the official repository for Church of the Brethren publications and records. The collection consists of more than 10,000 volumes, 3,500 linear feet of manuscripts and records, 40,000 photographs, plus videos, films, DVDs, and recordings. The one-year internship begins July 2022 (preferred). Compensation includes housing, a stipend of $550 every two weeks, and health insurance. A graduate student is preferred, or an undergraduate with at least two years of college, with interest in history and/or library and archival work, willingness to work with detail, accurate word processing skills, ability to lift 30-pound boxes. Full COVID-19 vaccination is a condition of the internship. Submit a resume to COBApply@brethren.org or contact the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. All submissions must be completed by April 1, 2022.

An update from pastor Alexander Zazhytko of the Chernigov Brethren in Ukraine has been received from Quinter (Kan.) Church of the Brethren pastor Keith Funk, who is the congregation’s main contact in the US. “Alex and family are no longer in Chernigov (Chernihiv). We are communicating a little more as they are at an undisclosed area in Ukraine, where it is safer for them,” Funk has reported to Newsline. “The immediate challenges for them are getting medicines and food, particularly the former as they have prescription needs in the family. As with many in their country, they are now of the status of refugees. Though they are in the country, they have been forced from their home due to the destruction of the city.” Funk asked Newsline readers “to remember this family in prayer as they have left their home for purposes of safety and security. And may we pray for this war to end that life, hope and peace be restored to this people and their land.”

— “Today we had the second of the Global Check-in & Prayer series,” wrote LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, in an announcement of an online interview with Youth and Young Adult Ministries director Becky Ullom Naugle. Find it on Facebook at https://fb.watch/bZJv_o8aZt.

Intercultural Ministries director LaDonna Sanders Nkosi (at right) interviews Youth and Young Adult Ministries director Becky Ullom Naugle
Translators celebrate the New Testament that has been published in the Nigerian language of Margi South. Photo courtesy of Sikabiya Ishaya Samson

— “To God be the glory, the Margi South portion of the New Testament has been printed and…will be dedicated and launched on April 23, 2022,” wrote Sikabiya Ishaya Samson, a Bible translator and minister of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). His email to Newsline celebrated completion of translation of the New Testament in the Margi South language of northeast Nigeria. “Pray for the success of the program,” he wrote. “Pray that God will touch lives and many will come to the language of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pray also that God will use the avenue to raised local support for the completion of the whole New Testament.”

— “If you’re connected to the Michigan District of the Church of the Brethren, this Kingian Nonviolence Training is for you!” said an announcement from On Earth Peace. The training is offered from March 22 through May 17. Participants will learn more about Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy and methodology for nonviolence. Sessions will include special attention to Christian spiritual formation for nonviolence, grounded in Dr. King’s sermons and writings, and time for spiritual discipline and socio-theological reflection. Go to www.onearthpeace.org/2022-03-22_knv_core_trng_michigan. If you are interested in the training but not connected with the Michigan District, contact knv-training@onearthpeace.org to inquire about future opportunities.

— The Global Women’s Project, a Church of the Brethren-related group, is seeking new members to serve on its steering committee. “Are you or do you know a woman who is globally minded and has gifts to offer?” said an announcement. “The GWP steering committee is in charge of all the programming and administration of the organization. The commitment is a five-year term. The committee meets monthly for an hour on Zoom and twice a year for a longer meeting. Once online and once in person. There is typically 1-3 hours of work between meetings.” To nominate someone, fill out the online form at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfOnDBylNwWUpbzqc1njxVykwn6XfeulusJTgeUwJvSaYa_8A/viewform.

Sounds of the Mountain Storytelling Festival is returning in person at Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va. “Be here for another dynamic and fun storytelling event,” said an announcement. Tickets, schedule, and all the details are at www.SoundsoftheMountains.org.

— “After being put on hold for two years, our CPT delegations have returned!” said an announcement from Community Peacemaker Teams. Delegates will be expected to adhere to team and local COVID protocols. The organization announced two upcoming delegations:

Iraqi Kurdistan, May 29 to June 10: The delegation will delve into Kurdish culture and their history of resistance from the team’s home in Sulaimani; will travel to several different regions to meet families and visit villages targeted by Turkey and Iran’s cross-border bombing; and will meet civil society activists and journalists whose rights to freedom of expression are systematically silenced through orchestrated political efforts, like the recently released Badinan prisoners and their families, whom CPT accompanied during their imprisonment and trial.

Colombia, June 26 to July 7: The lack of implementation of the 2016 peace agreements signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has resulted in a volatile space for establishing a comprehensive and lasting peace. The mining and farming communities of Northeast Antioquia fear a new escalation of violence by different armed groups in their territory. This delegation will share with communities and grassroots organizations that resist violence and oppression.

Go to www.cpt.org.

— An online panel presentation titled “The Historic Peace Churches: Integrating Theology and Practice for Peacebuilding” will be held on Tuesday, April 5, from 3:30-5 p.m. (Eastern time) as part of Carter School Spring Peace Week at George Mason University.

One of the facilitators for the event is Naomi J. Kraenbring, a current doctoral student at the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at GMU, an ordained minister at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, and an adjunct professor in the religious studies department at Elizabethtown College.

A number of Church of the Brethren participants will be taking part in the panel including Nate Hosler of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, Matt Guynn of the staff of On Earth Peace, and Rebecca Dali of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) who is well known for her work with widows and orphans affected by violence in northeast Nigeria. Also on the panel will be several Mennonites and Friends (Quakers) who are working at peacebuilding and conflict transformation in various capacities.

Panelists will discuss their current work and how it has evolved from their relationship with and connection to the Historic Peace Church traditions, as well as insights about the relevance of the Historic Peace Churches’ peacebuilding activity and what these traditions might have to offer the larger peacebuilding community, both scholars and practitioners.

Free registration is required at www.eventbrite.com/e/265338493577. Also, there are other events held during this Spring Peace Week through the Carter School that may be of interest–see https://carterschool.gmu.edu/news-events/carter-school-peace-week/spring-2022-peace-week.


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 Lisa Crouch, Charles Franzén, Keith Funk, Anne Gregory, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Jennifer Houser, Naomi J. Kraenbring, Russ Matteson, Nancy Miner, Sarah Neher, LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, Sikabiya Ishaya Samson, Ken Kline Smeltzer, Joe Vecchio, Roy Winter, Loretta Wolf, Ed Woolf, 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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