Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Newsline: January 27, 2015


Interfaith community calls for halt to drone attacks

By Bryan Hanger

More than 150 people of faith came to Princeton, N.J., this past weekend to learn from legal, ethical, and theological experts about drones and discern together a unified religious response to the horrors of drone warfare. This Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare drew participants from all over the country and from many religious backgrounds including Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Sikh.

The conference grew out of work by the Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare in Washington, D.C., which is co-chaired by Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, and the ability of the Coalition for Peace Action to receive a grant to help fund the conference. The Office of Public Witness also served on the planning committee for the conference.

Speakers included well known Christian theologians George Hunsinger of Princeton Theological Seminary and Susan Thistlethwaite of Chicago Theological Seminary, professors David Cortright and Mary Ellen O'Connell from the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame, former US Congressman Rush Holt, and many others from Muslim, Jewish, human rights, international development, and constitutional law organizations.

Speakers talked about the many worrying aspects of drone warfare including: the basic facts about drones, the legal questions surrounding drone warfare, the strategic consequences of using drones, the moral and theological reasons people of faith care about drone warfare, what can be done to stop it, and how to positively build peace in communities that previously have been targeted.

Maryann Cusimano Love, a professor of international relations at Catholic University of America, urged on conference participants, saying, "The religious community has a track record of success on engaging on important moral issues--from landmines to debt relief, HIV funding to torture. Policy makers often underestimate religious actors, but we ought not to underestimate ourselves."

In addition to the many informative and inspiring speakers, this conference provided the opportunity for sharing and organizing that had not previously happened at a national level. There has been much regional and local organizing, particularly at drone bases around the country, but this was the first time that religious leaders and other activists came together to consider how a national movement against drone warfare could be organized. This meant hashing out common ground between those subscribing to just war, just peace, and pacifist perspectives, while also providing space for those who might not fit so neatly into those categories.

The end result was a strong statement calling for an immediate halt to all drone strikes, acknowledgment of past strikes, accounting of victims, disclosure of legal justification for conducting such strikes, and greater overall transparency of the United States' past actions and current processes. (The full statement from the conference soon will be made available online.)

Also in the document was a call for repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that has been cited as part of the legal justification for drone strikes, a call upon Congress to conduct a comprehensive independent study of the impact of lethal drones on targeted communities and drone operators, and a call upon leaders to take the nation off the path of unending war by instead turning toward the task of building peace by funding alternative measures.

What comes next will be up to the participants of the conference and the religious communities they go home to. During the final session, discussion turned to how participants will engage their religious communities and how organizations that already have made statements (the 2013 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference resolution is at www.brethren.org/ac/statements/2013resolutionagainstdronewarfare.html) can collaborate and increase their advocacy. There was talk of creating a national organization to focus on drones specifically. A similar conference in 2006 about torture led to the creation of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Mennonite Central Committee US Peace Education coordinator Titus Peachey closed out the conference reflecting on Luke 9:51 55. The disciples asked Jesus if he would like for them to command fire to come down from the heavens and consume the village of the Samaritans. Jesus rebuked them saying, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of." Peachey challenged the conference participants to reflect on what spirit we are of and how we are to resist the fire our own country shoots down upon others from the heavens using drones.

Regardless of the shape or form of this movement's next steps, it is safe to say that the voice of the interfaith community of the United States will be speaking up loudly about the devastating effects of drone warfare.

-- Bryan Hanger is advocacy assistant in the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. Those who are working on the issue of drone warfare or who are interested in joining in the effort are requested to contact Nate Hosler, Director of the Office of Public Witness, at nhosler@brethren.org . Go to www.brethren.org/advocacy/actionalerts.html to sign up for Action Alerts from the Office of Public Witness.

Source: 01/27/2015 Newsline

Reports from EYN staff, BDM volunteer focus on recent attack on Maiduguri, Nigeria

Photo courtesy of EYN

EYN has distributed food in this encampment of displaced people in Yola, where many unidentified children are living with no parents. The EYN staff liaison provided this photo with the prayer, "Lord have mercy."
Muslims and Christians are fleeing Maiduguri, a large city in northeastern Nigeria, looking for safer places after Boko Haram insurgents attacked the area over the weekend and the Nigerian army responded, reports EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache.

In a separate report Cliff Kindy, a short-term volunteer in Nigeria with Brethren Disaster Ministries, writes about efforts of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) to serve the thousands who have fled into Maiduguri to escape continuing violent attacks of Boko Haram insurgents on other communities in northeast Nigeria.

Following are excerpts from Gamache's report:
Mongonu army barracks and Mongonu town [near Maiduguri] have been taken over by Boko Haram. The attack on the main city of Maiduguri was repulsed and a 24-hour curfew was imposed to avoid any Boko Haram influx. [This means] more and more pressure on camps [of displaced people], food supplies, rented houses, need for transportation, medical help for more injured people, and more need to give awareness to the two faiths to understand their situation.

The fight to defeat Boko Haram in the northeast is not giving civil society the hope that was expected. There have been more killings in the towns of Michika, Askira Uba, Madagali, Gwoza, and the rest. Three women were slaughtered three days ago in Wagga village. There was more burning of houses and farm produce in Garta, in Michika area, and more killing also in Kubi, in Michika area--but all these people are still holding to their traditional villages. There are daily warnings for people to run after several raids by Boko Haram, but many think their traditional land must not be taken by terrorists.

Our brothers and sisters that are escaping from the hands of Boko Haram are not spared by the security personnel, those that were trapped in Cameroon and are coming back into Nigeria face the same danger of killing and harassment. Camps of displaced people are increasing in population, more and more people are becoming helpless. [We are receiving] telephone calls that are becoming echoes of problems, wariness, and fear, hearing the cries of people with no wisdom to offer in solving their problems.

From Maiduguri, Yobe, the Cameroon border, and Adamawa State telephone calls are coming in: "Dying!!!!! Any help?" [There are] tears of joy when you see someone who has been away for some months knocking at your door for help, or calling on phone saying, "Please send some help for me and my family, we are alive." [There is] not much to give since the needs are plenty, but together we shall live and fight our present situation.

We thank God people have been called to take care of the interfaith camp. When we started the camp as a pilot project for 10 families we did not know that the conditions would increase overwhelmingly to this level.

My worry is that the Muslims and Christians are not able to understand the danger of breaking apart, the danger of pointing fingers in a time like this. Boko Haram has no respect for both religions in Nigeria, but the greatest danger is the expansion of the fight into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

A few hands are helping, and much money is coming in from dear hearts, but always it looks and sounds like a drop in the ocean. I have almost abandoned my official work for humanitarian work, the interfaith peace community, and relocation project for some months now. I have been trying to reduce the number of people in my house but I have no time to consider that because those in the bush have more trouble than those in my house. The inconvenience to my wife, children, and family is nothing to talk about compared with those who are displaced with nowhere to settle, roaming from one place to another with virtually no food, no shoes, no clothes, no proper water to drink, and no hope to survive.

I pray that God will touch the hearts of Nigerians to look into our situation with a different lens. Militancy is all over the world, and wherever it is, caution is needed to protect innocent lives.

Peace and blessings always.
Markus Gamache
Following is Kindy's report:
Maiduguri is the capitol city of Borno State. It is home to about 2 million residents. It has the distinction of being known as the birthplace of Boko Haram. It is also home to many churches that belong to EYN. The largest Maiduguri congregation attracts up to 5,000 people for Sunday worship. Over the last few weeks the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, has attacked numerous villages and towns in the far northeast section of Borno State, including Baga and most recently Maiduguri itself.

There had been a local EYN congregation in Baga at the time of the destruction of the city that made international news recently. There were many other EYN congregations and preaching points in the area stretching from Baga down to Maiduguri. Those congregations have been in harm's way as the Boko Haram has raided and burned many of these small communities. Refugees fleeing the violence have escaped into Chad, Niger, and Cameroon for safety. Many have also fled into the fortified city of Maiduguri.

EYN has a well coordinated response to the crisis within the city. There are three Christian IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps within the city limits and six Muslim IDP camps. Most of the Christians, however, are staying with families and friends, with as many as 50 to 70 people in some of the homes. Though not all the displaced are registered, yesterday (Saturday) there was a total of 45,858 Christian IDPs registered in the city and there are probably close to a similar number of Muslims in the 6 camps. That number has increased nearly threefold from before Christmas and is growing rapidly each day. Federal and state governments have been providing assistance to the IDP camps and the organization of the Christian community has seemed to cover those IDPs staying with families who are missed by the government distributions.

Security within the city is very tight. Persons going to markets or churches are closely screened. Metal detecting wands scan each person at churches before entry. If there is any question people are patted down. No packages are allowed inside the church. A Bible is the only thing attendees are allowed to carry with them. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that can pass through security unimpeded. That Spirit seems to be present in abundance as churches are growing under the pressure.

Updates are coming in. Today (Sunday) Maiduguri was being attacked by Boko Haram from three directions. In the east they were 30 kilometers away; in the north, 130 kilometers away; and in the west, 10 kilometers away. People inside Maiduguri said it sounded like shooting was coming from all directions. An EYN pastor in Jos has three children in school in Maiduguri and they were the ones that called with the first reports. The city ordered all people to stay indoors so that the military would know who was attacking. The markets were closed. Latest reports are that the military repelled the attacks against Maiduguri but that a city to the north, with Nigerian military barracks, did fall to the attackers. Clearly Boko Haram wants everyone to think they are everywhere and able to attack successfully wherever they choose.

Cliff Kindy
-- Markus Gamache is staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and is one of the Nigerian church staff working on the cooperative Nigeria Crisis Response effort of EYN, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the Church of the Brethren. Cliff Kindy is a short-term volunteer serving in Nigeria with Brethren Disaster Ministries. For more see www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis and the Nigeria blog at http://blog.brethren.org/category/nigeria.

Source: 01/27/2015 Newsline

Summer Bible School helps sponsor cornea transplant for student in Vietnam

Photo by Sr. Hai of Thien An School

Nam, one of the amazing blind students at Thien An Blind School in Vietnam, was awarded as an excellent student in the first semester of this school year.
By Grace Mishler, assisted by Nguyen Tram

Nam is one of the amazing blind students at Thien An Blind School. He is easy going and optimistic. He was awarded as an excellent student in the first semester of this school year. Every day, he goes to school together with other students and he is a group leader.

Nam was referred to me by the headmaster of Thien An Blind School to have an eye examination with Dr. Pham, a well known, Vietnamese American ophthalmologist. Both of his eyes are often swollen and in pain. His diagnosis is corneal dystrophy. Dr. Pham concurred with the course of treatment and asked that we take Nam to Dr. Thang, a cornea specialist at Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital.

On Dec. 29, 2014, Nam met with Dr. Thang and he began the paperwork for Nam's cornea transplantation. Dr. Thang asked me and Nam's caregiver to take him to the Eye Hospital for a physical examination and blood test. Nam's evaluation was approved that he is a good candidate for a cornea transplant and the prognosis is positive.

Nam has passed all of the tests required for the transplant. Dr. Thang expects to receive a cornea implant from the US in three months. Nam was told the transplantation will occur in three months. The total cost is $1,700 for one eye. This includes surgery, cornea implant, and five days in the hospital to prevent possible infection.

Mount Wilson Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania, where Joan and Erv Huston are members, surprised me recently by raising some funds. Vietnam is dear to the Hustons' hearts. They re-visited Vietnam for their 40th anniversary serving in Vietnam with Brethren Volunteer Service before 1975. Joan and Erv recently mobilized their Summer Bible School to support the Vietnam Student Eye Care Project. To personalize needs of blind, they had the children meet a blind woman who uses a cane. Students became enthusiastic and raised $1,713.25 for the project.

Photo courtesy of Mt. Wilson Church of the Brethren

Mt. Wilson Church of the Brethren Summer Bible School raiesd money to help with Nam's cornea transplant, and to aid other blind students in Vietnam.
This was a great joy because they raised three times more than expected, and they heard for the first time the real life story of a blind person who uses a cane, living right in their own community.

How the Mount Wilson Bible school funds are being used: seven more children with eye pain went to the American Eye Center--one child had been affected by Agent Orange; in consultation with Mount Wilson's pastor and Joan Huston, the church wants $1,000 to go for Nam's cornea transplant.

Just last night, I also met Peter, a Vietnam veteran, and his wife Vi at a mutual friend's birthday party in Ho Chi Minh City. They live in Montana but come regularly to Vietnam. He is a retired airline pilot and also has been affected by Agent Orange. He wanted to know more about my work here, and I shared the story of how a Summer Bible School in Pennsylvania helped to raise funds for Nam to receive one cornea transplant, but we are short $700 dollars. He pulled out a $100 bill and said, "Nope Grace, now you only need $600." At first, I did not understand what he was conveying--he realized I am blind, so he placed his $100 dollar bill on my palm, saying, "Grace, your compassionate heart compelled me to give."

A brief life story about Nam's frustration in coping with blindness:
  • At age 10, he became blind. This was an embarrassment for him.
  • He could not keep up with his peers and school work.
  • Finally, at age 12, Nam dropped out of Dak Lak Public School.
  • He stayed home and isolated himself from the world.
  • His parents searched for help and discovered Thien An Blind School in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • He now lives full time at this school and is in the 8th grade as a 21-year-old.
  • We discovered that Nam has been on a waiting list for three years for the cornea transplant at Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital.
-- Grace Mishler is a program volunteer working in Vietnam through the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service. She is on the faculty of National Vietnam University of Social Sciences and Humanities as a Social Work Project Developer. Her assistant, translator, and interpreter Nguyen Tram assisted with taking photos and writing this report. For more about the disabilities ministry in Vietnam see www.brethren.org/partners/vietnam.

Source: 01/27/2015 Newsline

Merger celebrates 'One in Christ'

By Kimberly Marselas of LNP News

LNP News / photo by Jeff Ruppenthal

Pastor Jeffrey Rill (left) and pastor Alix Sable will be sharing the pulpit at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, following the congregation's merger with Maranatha Fellowship.
After meeting separately within Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren for nearly 12 years, Maranatha Fellowship was officially assimilated into the congregation on Sunday, Jan. 18. Members of the multicultural group reaffirmed their faith during a 10:15 a.m. program that brought together several different worship services to celebrate being "One in Christ."

Maranatha's largely Spanish speaking members began meeting as a home based prayer group in 2002. The following year, they started holding more formal Sunday services at the Church of the Brethren and have since grown to 31 active members.

"It has been our dream to reach out to people of every race, every ethnicity, every language," says Alix Sable, a West Hempfield Township resident and Reading High School teacher who will now become an associate pastor at the Church of the Brethren. "It was our dream for all of us to be together."

The move comes as the Church of the Brethren's denominational governing body encourages its local churches to embrace more minorities and non English speakers. In 2007, a query before the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference resolved that the church should aim to be multi ethnic, based on Revelation 7:9's reference to a "great multitude...from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne."

"There is a clearer call now," says senior pastor Jeffrey Rill. "We should focus on our unity, not on our differences."

Rill said the church's policy of inclusion actually dates to 1835, when attendees at an annual meeting were instructed to "make no difference on account of color." Lancaster Church of the Brethren has recognized the county's growing multicultural influence by joining with Maranatha and providing space for a Sudanese Dinka worship.

Many church members are excited at the prospect of new energy--and higher membership numbers--that could come with more bilingual members.

"Maranatha brings a sense of enthusiasm about their faith, more of a heartfelt, verbalized faith," says Allen Hansell, who chaired the church board when a vote was taken to offer membership. "Being part of an exciting congregation adds to the beauty of life."

After the assimilation, Sable will serve on the church board and help make financial and mission related decisions. Maranatha has had an active giving program over the years, with its own treasury, events, and mission trips to provide evangelism and community building in Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

Sable and his wife, Arelis, launched Maranatha when their son was serving in Iraq to connect with other soldiers' families. Their willingness to reach across cultural divides also attracted Monroe Good. An ordained minister who helped establish Alpha and Omega Church of the Brethren, Good had spent 20 years as a missionary in Nigeria.

Chiropractor Calvin Wenger was treating a Maranatha member when he suggested the group consider meeting at Lancaster Church of the Brethren, where he served as moderator and remains pastor of caregiving.

Good says past interactions have been well received but sporadic. Joining the two groups will allow members to recognize each other's values, struggles, and contributions.

"We are doing this by intention," says Good. "We want to reach out to everybody more than ever."

Hansell and Rill acknowledge some churchgoers expressed skepticism about the assimilation, fearing services would be lengthened by multi language readings or costs inflated by translation of weekly materials. The church will continue to hold five separate worship services each Sunday morning, including a 10:15 service in Spanish.

Sable, however, says most Maranatha members are bilingual, with many of them having done door to door evangelical outreach in Lancaster County. The church also offered 13 week courses in Spanish and English last fall to help usher in change.

Rill said previous joint programs, such as a December send off for church missionaries, have been well received. In some ways, the church's youth have led the way. Maranatha did not have its own children's program, so young Bible study participants attended class with their Brethren peers.

Now, all members will have more opportunities to "deeply know people of different cultural backgrounds" and examine any "racism and racial stereotypes...despite our good intentions"--two dictates of that 2007 Annual Conference.

-- Kimberly Marselas is an LNP News correspondent. Newsline received permission to reprint this article from Lancaster Online, the website of LNP News. This article appears courtesy of Kimberly Marselas, LNP, Lancaster, Pa.

Source: 01/27/2015 Newsline

Brethren bits

Prayer for Nigeria and EYN spiritual leader Musa Mambula at Hempfield Church of the Brethren, Jan. 2015
Atlantic Northeast District sponsored two informational sessions on the crisis in Nigeria in January at Hempfield Church of the Brethren (shown in prayer, above) and Indian Creek Church of the Brethren (below). Musa Mambula, a spiritual leader of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) was a co presenter at each event, sharing from his personal experiences. A presentation on the US church's response to the crisis was a central focus of the meetings. Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries presented at Hempfield on Jan. 4 and Mission and Ministry Board chair elect Don Fitzkee delivered Winter's presentation at Indian Creek on Jan. 11. Both events included a time of prayer and an offering for the Nigeria Crisis Fund. About 90 people attended at Hempfield and gave $4,266. Some 50 people donated $972 at Indian Creek.
Prayer for Nigeria and for EYN spiritual leader Musa Mambula at Indian Creek Church of the Brethren, Jan. 2015
  • Remembrance: C. Wendell Bohrer, who served on the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren in the late 1970s and early 1980s, died on Jan. 15 in Sebring, Fla., following a brief illness. A life long servant of the church, he was ordained to the ministry in 1961 and pastored congregations in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, and Florida, retiring in 2007. He most recently served as associate pastor of Sebring Church of the Brethren, and was an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren for 55 years. He will be remembered in Johnstown, Pa., for having pastored Walnut Grove Church of the Brethren and having led disaster relief work in the aftermath of the Johnstown flood of 1977. Bohrer and the congregation were lauded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for their work to aid the community following the flood, and for serving as a center for thousands of Church of the Brethren volunteers that came in from outside the community to help out. "The Reverend Bohrer's church on the hill fed 400 people a day over a time span reminiscent of God's first deluge--40 days and 40 nights. It was open around the clock. Anyone in trouble was welcome. Anyone in need was helped," said an article by B. Cory Kilvert, Jr., published by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in October 1978. Bohrer also led numerous tours to Brethren heritage sites in Europe and other trips as well, and was active at Annual Conference, National Older Adult Conference, and Brethren Benefit Trust events. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Ruth Joan (Dawson) Bohrer; their four children, Bradley Bohrer (wife Bonnie Rager Bohrer), Deborah Wright (husband Andrew Wright), Matthew Bohrer (wife Noel Dulabaum Bohrer), and Joseph Bohrer (wife Tammy Rowland Bohrer); grandchildren; and great grandchildren. A celebration of life service was held on Sunday, Jan. 25, at Sebring Church of the Brethren. Memorial gifts are received to Heifer International or the Nigeria Crisis Fund through Sebring Church of the Brethren.
  • Camp Swatara in Bethel, Pa., seeks a new food service manager to begin on or around March 15. This is a full time, year round, salaried position based on an average of 40 hours per week with many hours during the summer season, less hours in the fall and spring, and more limited hours in the winter. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Camp Swatara is primarily a summer camp for children and youth. From Labor Day to Memorial Day, it is primarily a retreat facility with frequent weekend use and occasional midweek groups, including school groups. The food service manager is responsible to plan, coordinate, and carry out camp food service for all scheduled groups, activities, and events through the year. Candidates should have training, education, and/or experience in food service management, culinary arts, quantity food service, and staff supervision. Benefits include a salary based on experience and within the context of a nonprofit environment, employee insurance, a pension plan, and professional growth funds. Applications are due by Feb. 13. For more information and application materials, visit www.campswatara.org or call 717 933 8510.
  • A recent post to the Nigeria blog reports on the first trauma healing workshop led by Toma Ragnjiya, director of the Peace Program of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer Cliff Kindy reports on the training held at Vinikilang No. 1 Church. "Providing opportunities to heal from the trauma implicit in the tragedy that has overwhelmed EYN is a focus of the Crisis Management Team," he reports. "Thirty four mostly displaced pastors were there for this three day workshop. Themes of the training ranged from stress, trauma, anger, and grief to trust and healing from trauma, with ample time for sharing personal experiences with each other." Read more at http://blog.brethren.org/category/nigeria.
  • The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership will hold its annual TRIM (Training in Ministry) and EFSM (Education for Shared Ministry) orientation July 30 Aug. 2, at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind. For additional information, contact academy@bethanyseminary.edu or 800-287-8822 ext. 1820. "Please give thoughtful and prayerful consideration to those who might be called to enter these ministry training programs," said an invitation.
  • Two Pennsylvania congregations--York First Church of the Brethren and Bermudian Church of the Brethren--are engaged in a longstanding Brethren Souper Bowl competition. According to York First's newsletter, "This is a friendly competition for the good of our food pantry." However, the scoring is quite complicated. Here's how the newsletter explained it: "For scoring purposes 1 Point is the standard 10 3/4 oz. Campbell's Soup can. Some generics/store brands are 10 1/2 oz. and of course there are lots of odd size cans so it takes a little math work on the non standard cans (add up all the ounces and divide by 10.75). Ramen noodles score at 3 individual servings = 1 Point. For dollar contributions each dollar = 2 points. You may give the soup to whatever food pantries/ministries you choose." The coveted trophy is "an old granite enamelware soup pot." Each year a bronze plaque goes on the pot with the score and the winning church gets the honor of keeping the kettle for the next year.
  • Make this Valentine's Day "A Night to Remember" by attending a concert by pianist and songwriter Ken Medema on Saturday, Feb. 14, 7-9 p.m., at Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren. Across the years, Medema--who has been blind from birth--has shared his passion for learning and discovery through storytelling and music with an ever growing circle of followers around the world. He has performed for more than 40 years in many different venues including the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and National Youth Conference. The evening includes desserts served from 7-7:30 and the concert beginning at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10 per person for tickets that can be purchased online or at the door, while supplies last. Childcare will be available by reservation with tickets purchased by Feb. 4. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.fcob.net.
Photo courtesy of David Yeazell

Pastors of Iglesia Jesucristo El Camino (His Way Church of the Brethren) Carol and David Yeazell (in the center) with guest leaders of the "Convocando a Las Iglesia de Las Montanas" from Costa Rica, Zulay Corrales (on the left) and Luis Azofeifa (on the right).
  • "God's blessing was on the Convocando a Las Iglesia de Las Montanas (Call to the Churches of the Mountains)," said a report from David Yeazell, a pastor at Iglesia Jesucristo El Camino (His Way Church of the Brethren) in Mills River, N.C., which co-hosted the event. He reported that 300 people representing at least 11 local Hispanic churches from Asheville, Hendersonville, Mills River, and Brevard, N.C., attended an event of worship and teaching on Jan. 23. The evening on the theme Clamor de Naciones (Cry of the Nations), "culminated in an extended time of intercession for the nations and for our region," he wrote. "Two additional churches from Lincolnton and Marion joined us on Saturday for a day of training and impartation. It was an amazing time of God bringing local churches and pastors together, starting new relationships; and prayerfully the start of more collaboration among the Hispanic churches of western North Carolina."
  • Camp Emmaus in Mount Morris, Ill., is celebrating gifts that have paid off the expense of a major swimming pool renovation, and is planning a celebration of 50 years of leadership by Bill and Betty Hare. "On behalf of the Camp Board, I would like to extend a thank you for your contributions which have made it possible to completely pay off the expense of the pool renovation," said a thank you to supporters from Mike Schnierla. "The pool renovation, which was completed three years ago, cost in excess of $250,000. Your gifts and the monies from the recent tree sale have allowed us to retire this debt. THANK YOU!" The e-mail note passed along by the Illinois and Wisconsin District office, also announced preparations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bill and Betty Hare as camp managers. A 50th Anniversary Celebration that will include a Celebration-Appreciation Dinner is planned for June 13. Later in the year a Fall Festival is planned as a community event with a variety of activities for families to attend together.
  • Southern Pennsylvania District is challenging its congregations to "collectively raise $250,000 during the next nine months," said an announcement. "We are all aware of the devastation to the Nigerian Church of the Brethren. The loss of life, property and livelihood is incalculable. The needs are incredible." The challenge is in response to Brethren Disaster Ministries estimates of total costs of the Nigeria Crisis Response program over the next several years.
  • "Curious about how visitors experience worship in your congregation?" said an announcement of a new program in Shenandoah District. "First impressions are often lasting impressions and determine whether or not someone will visit your church again." The district's Church Development and Evangelism Team has developed a Mystery Guest Program that helps a congregation see what the church looks like through a visitors' eyes. The program assigns an individual to attend a worship service and provide feedback on the experience. For more information contact the district office at 540-234-8555.
  • The Kit Depot will returns to Shenandoah District in April, the district newsletter announced. The disaster ministries utility building at the Shenandoah District Office in Weyers Cave, Va., will again function as a collection point for Church World Service kits this spring. Donations of kits will be received from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, April 7-May 14. "There is plenty of time to mobilize your congregation to make school kits, hygiene kits and baby care kits and to fill emergency cleanup buckets. We should have mountains of kits and buckets ready for the truck by mid May!" the newsletter said. For kit instructions go to www.cwsglobal.org/get-involved/kits. The Kit Depot will have forms to send shipping fees of $2 per kit, or $3 per bucket, directly to Church World Service.
  • A “Know Your Title IX” Carnival at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College will educate students on sexual assault. “Educating students on the issues surrounding sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking could be dry stuff, but Elizabethtown College is taking a look at these serious issues and drawing attention to their importance in a fun, interactive way,” said a release. The student wellness advocacy group has developed interactive booths and games to inform students during the carnival to take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 28, in the BSC Concourse. Students who attend and visit at least four booths are eligible for a free T-shirt. Booths will offer information about confidential resources on campus, stalking, sexual assault statistics, consent, and an opportunity to sign the “It's On Us” pledge (www.itsonus.org) in addition to face painting, a duck pond, and “a kissing booth--stressing that ‘A KISS does not equal CONSENT,’” the release said. More information about Elizabethtown College is at www.etown.edu .
  • Thousands of people are planning to embark on a pilgrimage of climate justice--either on foot or on bicycles--in many parts of the world, mostly in Europe and Africa, mobilized by member communions of the World Council of Churches. A WCC release reported that "these faithful pilgrims, rooted in their religious beliefs, want to express solidarity with those affected by climate change--urging world leaders to produce a legally binding and universal agreement on the climate at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris." Some of the pilgrims will end their journey in Paris, during the time of the COP 21 to be held from Nov. 30-Dec. 11. "Paris is a milestone in our pilgrimage of climate justice," said Guillermo Kerber, WCC program executive for Care for Creation and Climate Justice, in the release. "Yet Paris is not a destination. As people of faith, expected to offer a moral compass to climate dialogue, we need to strategize for 2016 and beyond." The concept of a "pilgrimage of justice and peace" is a vision promoted by the WCC's 10th Assembly, and climate justice is a significant component of this vision the release explained.
  • Ron and Philip Good were among members of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren interviewed by LNP News about the crisis in Nigeria and what the congregation is doing in response. The Good brothers are sons of former longterm mission workers Monroe and Ada Good and lived in Nigeria as children. Also interviewed was Nancy Hivner of the Witness Commission/Nigerian Communication Team. In November the Elizabethtown congregation pledged to raise $50,000, and has since exceeded that goal with donations of $55,481 "and has decided to send an additional $50,000 from its outreach and ministry fund," the report said, in addition to $47,844 representing surplus from various church funds, for a total of $153,325. See http://lancasteronline.com/features/faith_values/peace-church-caught-in-boko-haram-war-zone/article_7933ee74-a276-11e4-a012-4baa72551b8b.html.
Source: 01/27/2015 Newsline


Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Linetta Ballew, Jenn Dorsch, Carolyn Fitzkee, Markus Gamache, Bryan Hanger, Elizabeth Harvey, Cliff Kindy, Kimberly Marselas, Fran Massie, Mike Schnierla, David Yeazell, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Newsline: January 21, 2015


Donations to Nigeria Crisis Fund meet board’s matching challenge

More than $500,000 has been raised for the Nigeria Crisis Fund, meeting a matching challenge issued by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board last fall. As of Dec. 31, 2014, the Nigeria Crisis Fund had received a total of $506,100.50 in donations.

“Once again the Brethren have amazed me,” commented general secretary Stan Noffsinger. “At a time of year when there are many demands on our finances, members of the church have generously given. We are part of a family of churches that span the globe and when one is in crisis, all join with them, just as the church did after the Haiti earthquake. We don’t expect that generosity to wane because we’ve met the challenge match. We will walk with the Nigerian Brethren through this time of turmoil so they are not alone.

Photo by David Sollenberger

Women and children waiting to receive food and supplies distributed by Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The half million dollars donated to the Nigeria Crisis Fund, and the matching amount from the Church of the Brethren denominational reserves, will provide funding for such distributions of food and relief materials to Nigerians displaced by violence.
“We hear frequently from Samuel Dali, president of EYN, that the e-mails and letters and financial assistance serve as a tremendous encouragement at a time when Nigeria is frequently overlooked by the international community,” Noffsinger added. “They know their church family cares for them, cares for the displaced people, the orphaned children, and the widows.”

The Nigeria Crisis Fund supports the crisis relief effort of the Church of the Brethren and Brethren Disaster Ministries working cooperatively with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). For details about this relief effort, go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis.

In Oct. 2014, the denomination’s Mission and Ministry board challenged Brethren to raise a half million dollars for the crisis response effort in Nigeria, pledging to match that with funds from denominational reserves. At that time the board also committed $500,000 from reserves, and approved an allocation of $500,000 from the denomination’s Emergency Disaster Fund.

The amount cited above does not include an allocation of $500,000 from the Brethren Disaster Relief Auction, which was given to the denomination’s Emergency Disaster Fund with flexibility for part or all of it to support the Nigeria Crisis Response, as the rapidly changing situation in Nigeria requires.

With the matching challenge now met, the Church of the Brethren has more than $2 million in funds that have been donated or allocated to the Nigeria crisis response effort.

Many people and churches contributed

Donations toward the matching challenge came from individuals and congregations, with many church groups holding special fundraisers and events in support of EYN and its members as they continue to face violence in the northeast of Nigeria, and many thousands of Nigerian Brethren are displaced from their homes.

“The response to the plight of our Nigerian brothers and sisters is exciting,” said Carl and Roxane Hill, co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response. They shared the following story of how “one small church with a big heart” raised money toward the matching challenge:

“During December, they decorated their Christmas tree with a Nigerian emphasis, topping it with an angel in Nigerian clothing. This church does a ‘mug dump’ each month. The idea is to put all your daily loose change into a mug and then at the end of the month bring it to church and dump into a larger container.

“They choose different ministries to give to each month. December was designated for Nigeria. They gathered $1,700. This money is enough to purchase over 60 bags of grain in Nigeria. Each bag will feed a family of six people for six weeks. So their little ‘mug dump’ will feed 364 people for 6 weeks.

“Who would think loose change for a month could do so much?”

For more about the crisis in Nigeria and the cooperative effort of EYN, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the Church of the Brethren, go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis.

Source: 01/21/2015 Newsline

Some Nigerian Brethren are attacked again after returning to their homes

Photo courtesy of Carl & Roxane Hill

The Nigeria Crisis Response Team of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) with Roxane and Carl Hill (at right).
Nigeria crisis response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill have provided an update from recent events in northeast Nigeria, where some members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have suffered repeat attacks by Boko Haram insurgents in recent days.

“Since Christmas many displaced persons had returned to their homes in northeast Nigeria,” the Hills report. “They had begun holding services outside burnt and destroyed churches. But last week Boko Haram again attacked some of the same areas causing another wave of confusion and terror.

“As one Nigerian told us, ‘I am getting more and more disturbed, confused, and traumatized as I hear the news. The cries of my Muslim and Christian communities in the North East has reached to a level of great concern.’”

Other recent reports from Nigerian Brethren include allegations that Nigerian men who are escaping the violence by running to the mountains in Cameroon are being killed by the Cameroonian army, and that there are no official camps for displaced people in Nigeria being organized by the Nigerian government. Displaced people are staying with families and friends, and in uncompleted buildings, schools, mosques, and churches. “Facilities everywhere are overused and virtually every church and mosque has turned into an IDP camp,” the Hills report--making the Brethren effort to establish temporary housing for displaced people even more crucial at this time.

The Hills ask the American church to continue in prayer and support for Nigeria: “Pray for the people of Nigeria as they face this continuing crisis. Pray also that the assistance the US church is providing can be used to strengthen the church and its people in Nigeria. Special prayers for all those who have lost family members.”

Nigerian Baptist leader critiques lack of international response

In related news, a Nigerian Baptist leader has castigated the international community for ignoring the plight of people suffering extreme insurgent violence in northeast Nigeria, while attention is being paid to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places.

“My consternation is in the attitude of the international community toward the huge destruction going on in Nigeria. The earnestness with which they intervened in the ISIL attack in Syria and Iraq, or the Taliban problem in Afghanistan, etc., is not shown in the case of Nigeria,” said Samson Ayokunle, president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), the largest Baptist World Alliance member organization in Africa with approximately 3.5 million members in some 10,000 churches.

He accused the world community of devaluing Nigerian lives. “Does it not matter to the rest of the world if Boko Haram continues to kill hundreds of people every week? Are these people less human than those being killed in other place where they have gone to directly intervene? My people are being killed like animals and the whole world is just watching.”

Read the full release from the Baptist World Alliance at www.bwanet.org/news/news-releases/452-nigeria-terrorism.

Source: 01/21/2015 Newsline

Suffering under Boko Haram: The horror of what everyday life in northeast Nigeria has become

This report is provided by Cliff Kindy, a Church of the Brethren volunteer working in Nigeria with Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), from an interview with a Nigerian woman who escaped from Boko Haram-held territory in northeast Nigeria. Kindy is volunteering with the Nigeria crisis response, a cooperative effort of EYN, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the Church of the Brethren in the United States:

Last July the small community of Wagga was attacked by the Boko Haram, an extremist Islamist insurgent group. Over 300 of these terrorists came into the village riding on motorbikes and in cars. Most of the Christians fled the village realizing that they would become the primary targets if they stayed.

After a few days, the Boko Haram returned and burned the churches in Wagga and did the same in the larger community of Madagali, which is close by. Although EYN is the largest church presence in this region, not only were EYN churches destroyed but also those belonging to the Church of Christ in Nigeria, Assemblies of God, and the Roman Catholics. There were eight EYN churches burned. The Boko Haram militants settled in Madagali leaving only a small contingent in Wagga.

Since it was just Muslims left in Wagga, Boko Haram called all the Muslim men, “Come, let us pray together.” They issued an ultimatum, “Who would like to join us?” A handful agreed to join. The rest asked for time to consider the invitation until the next day. Boko Haram immediately took nearly 200 of the men, old and young, to a large hall.

They were separated into groups of ten. The first ten were killed with an ax, the next ten killed with a cutlass and the third group killed with a gun. Then the process was repeated over and over. Later one of each ten was granted “mercy” and so fled. The most elderly were spared and those under 15 were incorporated into Boko Haram and trained as new fighting recruits. The slaughter led some who had volunteered to reconsider and later escape.

In Wagga the small Muslim community had prayed five times each day. They removed their shoes and washed their feet before praying as do most Muslims. Boko Haram prays just once each day, about seven in the morning, and leaves their shoes on while praying.

Boko Haram did not kill the women when they came to Wagga, but took all the food from the houses leaving nothing for the women. Sarah (not her real name) was a single parent farmer, growing groundnuts, red and white beans, and maize. Now she was rarely able to leave her home. When she did she was required to so cover her head that neighbors could barely recognize her or she them. The few Christian women still in Wagga made a pact with the Muslim men who remained that they would live together, not as married couples but as cover from Boko Haram. Those men were able to slip away at times to grind grain for the women to eat.

Sarah is a Christian, but whether Christian or Muslim, living conditions for women were horrible. She and three other women would meet together for prayer whenever the men went out. Her prayer was always, “God, how can I escape to the mountains?”

When Boko Haram first raided Wagga Sarah had fled to safety in the mountains. She returned when she realized her 13-year-old mentally challenged daughter was missing. She remained in Wagga for the sake of her daughter who was later brutally raped by Boko Haram in the six intervening months. The population of Wagga and Madagali has now almost evaporated to only about 200 people in the two communities.

The day after Christmas Sarah awakened at 11 in the night and a vision told her to run for safety. She and one of her friends, who agreed to join her, fled to the mountains. Surprisingly they found 43 other women and 2 men who had similarly fled from other places. They crossed safely into Cameroon to Mokolo village where they found some immediate assistance. Then again as a group they crossed the border and found refuge in Yola. From there Sarah came to Jos where her brother has been caring for two of her young children who had escaped in July. She does not know whether her daughter is still alive but she does praise God for the chance to again see her people.

-- This is the most recent story from Nigeria posted on the Church of the Brethren’s new Nigeria blog. The blog also features daily devotions from EYN. Find the blog at http://blog.brethren.org/category/nigeria. To contribute to the Nigeria Crisis Fund to support the crisis response effort, go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis.

Source: 01/21/2015 Newsline

Groundbreaking consultation explores the meaning and practice of ‘believers baptism’ for the future unity of the church

A three-day consultation took place in early January involving representatives from six different “believers baptism” church traditions to share their understandings and practices of baptism and to explore how their thinking has changed in light of the emerging theological convergence on baptism and growing ecumenical encounter over the past 30 years. This was the first time such a gathering has taken place, and thus represents an historic moment in the life of these traditions. The traditions who gathered for the event in Kingston, Jamaica, included the Baptists, Brethren, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Mennonites, and Pentecostals. The 18 participants came from Jamaica, Kenya, Germany, Paraguay, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Church of the Brethren participants were Bethany Theological Seminary president Jeff Carter and Denise Kettering-Lane, assistant professor of Brethren Studies at the Church of the Brethren seminary, sponsored by the General Secretary’s Office. Kettering-Lane presented a paper on behalf of the Church of the Brethren, and Carter co-authored the conference report.

Open and honest reflection

The initiative for the consultation grew out of the annual meeting of the Secretaries of Christian World Communions in 2012, which noted fresh thinking and official agreements around the mutual recognition of baptism between churches who practice “infant baptism” and those who practice “believers baptism.”

The agenda of the consultation included presentations from each of the traditions on their past and current teaching and practice of baptism, with attention to how their understandings have changed or developed, along with the opportunity to discuss the presentations. A representative of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) also was present to provide input from the perspective of the wider global discussion on baptism within the ecumenical movement.

The highlights of the consultation, as stated in a report on the meeting, included:
  • gratitude for the opportunity to have an open and honest reflection on the meaning, practice and shared understandings of baptism among the participants;
  • naming the potential found in the image of “being on a journey” for the Christian life, with different forms and expressions of initiation and confession, while sharing a similar call to discipleship;
  • the significance of understanding the Holy Spirit as a source both of our diversity as well as our unity in Christ;
  • the need for a re-examination of the language of “sacrament,” “ordinance,” “sign,” and “symbol” as ways to acknowledge that God is the primary actor in baptism;
  • the need to recognize the continuity between ecumenical reception of other traditions as church, and the practices that marks each tradition as a unique expression of the body of Christ.
The full text of the report on the meeting will be shared with both the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions and the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC with the hope that it will move the discussion and work on the mutual recognition of baptism and Christian unity forward.

Participants in the consultation
Baptist World Alliance:
Rev. Neville Callam, General Secretary, Baptist World Alliance (Washington, D.C.)
Rev. Dr. Glenroy Lalor, Lecturer, United Theological College of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica)
Rev. Dr. Jim Somerville, Pastor, First Baptist Church (Richmond, Va.)
Church of the Brethren:
Rev. Dr. Jeff Carter, President, Bethany Theological Seminary (Richmond, Ind.)
Dr. Denise Kettering-Lane, Assistant Professor of Brethren Studies, Bethany Theological Seminary (Richmond, Ind.)

World Convention of the Churches of Christ:
Dr. John Mark Hicks, Professor of Theology, Lipscomb University (Nashville, Tenn.)
Dr. Gary Holloway, Executive Director, World Convention of Churches of Christ (Nashville, Tenn.)
Dr. Mark Weedman, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, Johnson University, (Knoxville, Tenn.)

Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council:
Rev. Dr. Marjorie Lewis, President, United Theological College of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica)
Rev. Dr. David M. Thompson, United Reformed Church and Emeritus Professor of Modern Church History, University of Cambridge (England)
Rev. Dr. Robert K. Welsh, General Secretary, Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council (Indianapolis, Ind.)

Mennonite World Conference:
Rev. Dr. Fernando Enns, Professor of (Peace-)Theology and Ethics, Free University Amsterdam (Netherlands) and University of Hamburg (Germany), member of Central Committee of World Council of Churches
Dr. Alfred Neufeld, Rector, Protestant University of Paraguay (Ascension, Paraguay)
Rev. Rebecca Osiro, Mennonite World Conference Eastern Africa Representative, and pastor of Mennonite Church in Nairobi, Kenya

Dr. Cecil M. Robeck, Professor of Church History and Ecumenics, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, Calif.)
Rev. Dr. Tony Richie, Pastor, New Harvest Church of God (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Adjunct Professor of Pentecostal Theology (Cleveland, Tenn.)
Rev. Dr. Daniel Tomberlin, Pastor, Vidalia Church of God (Vidalia, Ga.)

Faith and Order Commission of WCC:
Rev. Dr. Dagmar Heller, Academic Dean of the Ecumenical Institute (Bossey, Switzerland) and Executive Secretary for Faith and Order, WCC (Geneva, Switzerland)
-- This report is from a release provided by Robert K. Welsh.

Source: 01/21/2015 Newsline

GFCF supports agriculture in North Korea, garden project for inmates in Brazil, farmer’s market in New Orleans

The Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) of the Church of the Brethren has announced several recent grants totaling $22,000. A grant of $10,000 supports agricultural education in North Korea via the work of Robert and Linda Shank at PUST university in Pyongyang. A grant of $10,000 supports a Brethren-led gardening project involving prisoners in Brazil. A grant of $2,000 supports the work of Capstone 118 to begin a small farmer’s market in New Orleans, La.

The allocation of $10,000 for the work of Robert and Linda Shank with undergraduate and graduate students at PUST University in Pyongyang, North Korea, is in addition to previous allocations to the project totaling $6,802.45. The Shanks, along with undergraduate and graduate students they have trained, will continue crop breeding work on corn, rice, other grain crops, and fruit crops, and will add sweet potatoes as a new crop. A significant new emphasis will be working together with nine county nurseries for the distribution of tissue-cultured raspberry plants for sloping marginal lands. This work is done in conjunction with the Ministry of Land and Environmental Planning, a government agency. Funds will be used for field evaluation materials, lab improvements, tissue culture materials, seed stock, and greenhouse supplies.

The allocation of $10,000 to support the work of the Rio Verde congregation of Igreja da Irmandade-Brasil (Church of the Brethren in Brazil) will aid the work of the church with prison inmates. The Rio Verde congregation, under the direction of pastor José Tavares Júnior, has developed a multi-faceted program working with inmates in the local prison and their families. This work includes a gardening project involving 32 prisoners, which provides food for meals for 400 inmates at the prison. Four charities in the city also are receiving vegetables to improve the meals they serve to people in their programs. The gardening project has been in existence for five years, and recently has rented new land for expansion. Funds will be used to cover costs associated with drilling a well, setting up irrigation, purchasing vegetable seeds and transplants, and covering bank transfer fees.

The grant of $2,000 to Capstone 118 in New Orleans, which some may know as Capstone Community Gardens and Orchard in the Lower 9th Ward begun by Church of the Brethren member David Young, will aid a farmer’s market. Last year Capstone worked with several community partners to begin a small farmers' market as a way of not only providing fresh produce, but also to help local food producers generate some income. The funds will benefit both local producers and recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-formerly known as food stamps). SNAP recipients who shop at the market would be provided with a coupon which entitles them to 20 percent more free produce when used at the market. The market vendors would collect the coupons and exchange them for reimbursement from Capstone.

For more about the Global Food Crisis Fund go to www.brethren.org/gfcf.

Source: 01/21/2015 Newsline

Lancaster Church purchases uniforms and supplies for homeless students

Photo courtesy of Lancaster Church of the Brethren

The director of the Homeless Student Project of Lancaster, Pa., Nicki Spann (left), stands with Lois Hansell (right), one of the coordinators of “Be An Angel” at Lancaster Church of the Brethren
By Al and Lois Hansell

Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has been purchasing supplies and uniforms for the 1,200 homeless students in the city of Lancaster since 2009. The Hunger and Poverty Group formed in 2008, and one of the members suggested the name "Be An Angel" for the school program. It was quickly accepted.

We have been doing Be An Angel for six years from 2009-2014. Every summer (June to mid-August), our members contribute money or make purchases themselves. We order most of the uniforms from a wholesale factory in New York City. It is hard to believe that there are so many homeless students in such a small city.

Here is a summary of our efforts since 2009:
Year               Supplies         Uniforms         Total Given
2009               $  5,000               ____               $  5,000
2010               $  1,100            $  6,500             $  7,600
2011               $  1,645            $  8,550             $10,195
2012               $  1,750            $11,000             $12,750
2013               $  1,185            $14,009             $15,194
2014               $  1,000            $17,123 **         $18,323

Total              $11,680              $57,182            $68,862

The $57,182 purchased 4,055 uniforms over the past five years.

**We purchased 1345 uniforms in 2014.

Photo courtesy of Lancaster Church of the Brethren

Uniforms and supplies purchased by Lancaster Church of the Brethren "Be An Angel" project help homeless students in Lancaster schools
The Hunger and Poverty Group also started a “2 Cents a Meal” effort in 2009. We give two-thirds of the money to the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund, and one-third to the Lancaster County Council of Churches. The congregation gives about $6,500 per year to this.

Lancaster Church of the Brethren has a robust outreach program. We just completed a campaign for the Mobile Health Clinics in Haiti, raising over $100,000 in two years. We are currently raising funds for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Over $10,000 has come in so far without a challenge goal.

We think it is good to share what congregations are doing; it is a great form of encouragement.

-- Al and Lois Hansell coordinate “Be An Angel” at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

Source: 01/21/2015 Newsline

Intercultural retreat to be hosted in Atlantic Northeast District in May

A weekend intercultural retreat with the theme “All God’s People Say Amen” will be hosted in Atlantic Northeast District at Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren on May 1-3. The retreat is co-sponsored by the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries and Intercultural Ministries.

The event is described as “a weekend encounter with ourselves” and “a learning opportunity for those who want to experience a fresh wind in their community and those who want to be that fresh wind.” Participants will discuss what it means to be an intercultural church in the 21st century.

The retreat schedule includes plenary sessions, workshops, and worship. Presenters include Craig Smith, district executive minister of Atlantic Northeast District, who will preach on Sunday, May 3, at a joint service.

Plenary I on the topic, “We Are All Urban,” will be led by Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively.

Plenary II on the topic “Racial Reconciliation for Christians in Post-Racial America” will be led by Drew Hart, who in social media circles is known as an Anablacktivist--a term he has coined from his experiences being raised in a non-denominational African American Christian community and finding Anabaptism as an adult. He writes, teaches, and preaches about a Christian response to the issues of race and ethnicity that make headlines, and his blog can be found at Christian Century.

Plenary III on the topic “Bienvenidos Iglesia de los Hermanos (Welcome to the Spanish Church of the Brethren)” will be led by Joel Peña who will share how Hispanic ministries will bring renewal to churches in America. He will share from his experiences as pastor of Alpha-Omega congregation in Lancaster, Pa., and his participation in Hispanic ministries leadership for the denomination, recently representing the denomination at an ecumenical, national gathering of Hispanic leaders.

Early bird registration costs $40, or $35 per person for groups of three or more (valid until April 1). Find more information and registration at www.brethren.org/intercultural/godspeople2015. For questions contact Intercultural Ministries director Gimbiya Kettering at gkettering@brethren.org or 847-429-4387.

Source: 01/21/2015 Newsline

Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center offers series of continuing education events

The Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) based at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College is holding a series of continuing education events. Heading the series is “Lives of Devotion: Biblical Approaches to Spiritual Life” taught by biblical scholars Bob Neff and Christina Bucher.

“Lives of Devotion” will take participants beyond the Psalter to delve into the Bible’s devotional texts and their varied spiritual “dispositions.” Participants will study Jeremiah 11-20, Job 38-42, Song of Songs, and prayers in 1 and 2 Chronicles, especially the “prayer of Jabez,” using Corinne Ware’s work on spirituality in later Israel to guide reflection. The format will include both lecture and discussion, with some questions posed to participants in advance. The event is April 29, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Susquehanna Room at Elizabethtown College. Cost is $60 and includes light breakfast, lunch, and 0.6 continuing education units. Registration and payment are due April 13. For more information and a registration form go to www.etown.edu/programs/svmc/files/Registration_LivesOfDevotion.pdf.

Also planned in the series:
“Emotional Intelligence: The Difference that Makes the Difference,” taught by Don Booz on Aug. 22, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Nicarry Meeting House in the Brethren Home, New Oxford, Pa. The event offers 0.4 continuing education units. More details to come.

“The Gospel of Mark and Twenty-First Century Ministry,” with Dan Ulrich, New Testament scholar from Bethany Theological Seminary, as keynote speaker, plus panelists from multiple ministry contexts, takes place Nov. 9, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. Cost is $60 and includes light breakfast, lunch, and 0.6 continuing education units.

“The Book of Chronicles and the Church: Theology, Continuity, Innovation, and the Kingdom of God,” will be taught by Bethany Seminary dean Steven Schweitzer in Spring 2016.
Contact the SVMC office with questions or for more information, svmc@etown.edu or 717-361-1450.

Source: 01/21/2015 Newsline

Brethren bits

Service Sunday, a day of worship that celebrates the Church of the Brethren’s rich history of living out its faith through service, will be recognized on Feb. 1. Congregations and leaders are asked to use this Sunday to recognize all who serve. This year’s theme, “Side by Side: Imitating Christ’s Humility,” is based on Philippians 2:1-4. Worship resources surrounding this theme are available at www.brethren.org/servicesunday.
  • Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., seeks a dynamic and energetic leader with fundraising experience to serve as executive director of Institutional Advancement. As senior administrator and primary fundraiser, this person will lead fundraising efforts with creative and proven strategic approaches to successfully position the seminary for the future as well as cultivate and deepen relationships with alumni/ae, supporters, and friends in the Church of the Brethren. Founded in 1905, Bethany is the Church of the Brethren graduate school for theological education. It seeks to equip spiritual and intellectual leaders with an Incarnational education for ministering, proclaiming, and living out God’s shalom and Christ’s peace in the church and world. Bethany’s educational program bears witness to the beliefs, heritage, and practices of the Church of the Brethren in the context of the whole Christian tradition. In partnerships with Earlham School of Religion, the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, and the Church of the Brethren denomination, Bethany embodies ecumenical cooperation in the Anabaptist-Pietist tradition and innovation in programming, curriculum design, and economic stewardship. The new executive director of Institutional Advancement will join the seminary at an exciting time of growth and innovation as the Seminary expands program, institutes new initiatives for residential and distance learners, and continues to raise its profile in the Church of the Brethren and larger ecumenical community. A full position description is at www.bethanyseminary.edu/opportunities/employment. Interested individuals should provide a letter outlining their interest in and qualifications for the position, resume, and names and contact information for three references. Reviews of applications will begin Feb. 1, and continue until an appointment is made. Applications and nominations may be submitted electronically or by mail to: Rev. Dr. Jeff Carter, President, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374-4019; president@bethanyseminary.edu.
  • Creation Justice Ministries, formerly the National Council of Churches (NCC) Eco-Justice program, is seeking candidates for the position of executive director. Reporting to the Board of Directors, the executive director will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for Creation Justice Ministries’ programs and execution of its mission. The overarching responsibility will be to continue and enhance the program ministries and encourage and enable member communions to address eco-justice issues through their own programs. Creation Justice Ministries, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is an ecumenical organization representing the creation care policies of 38 Christian denominations including mainline Protestant, Orthodox, Baptist, and peace churches. Based on the priorities of its members, it educates, equips, and mobilizes Christian communions/denominations to protect God’s Creation, providing collaborative opportunities to build ecumenical community and raising a collective witness in the public arena echoing Christ’s call for just relationships among all of Creation. A detailed position description is available. The position is located in Washington, D.C. A competitive salary and benefits package commensurate with experience is offered. Apply by sendin resume, salary requirements, cover letter, and three references to cascarmichael@live.com. Applications will be reviewed starting March 16.
  • The Church of the Brethren is seeking to fill the position of 2015 Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) intern. The purpose of the BHLA intern program is to develop interest in vocations related to archives, libraries, and Brethren history. The program will provide the intern with work assignments in the BHLA and with opportunities to develop professional contacts. A full position posting is available. Interested candidates may request an application packet by contacting: Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Avenue, Elgin, IL 60120; humanresources@brethren.org; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. All submissions must be completed by April 1.
  • The Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., provided warehouse space for the city’s annual Martin Luther King Day Food Drive. This was the fourth year in a row the denomination provided facilities for the drive which collected canned and boxed foods from congregations, businesses, community groups, and individuals. The food was delivered to the warehouse space at the church’s General Offices, sorted by youth volunteers from the community, and then donated to area food pantries to be distributed to people in need. Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren was one of the congregations that helped collect the food. More than 8,400 pounds of food was sorted with help from youth who participate in the Boys and Girls Club. Joe Wars, who formerly served on the city’s human rights commission, organized the drive. Don Knierem from the Church of the Brethren staff also worked with the event.
  • The Youth and Young Adult Office welcomed the Young Adult Steering Committee to the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., last week. Members of the committee include Jess Hoffert, Heather Houff Landram, Amanda McLearn-Montz, Mark Pickens, and Kyle Remnant. The group was led by Laura Whitman and assisted by Kristen Hoffman, in their planning for the 2015 Young Adult Conference.
  • “The students of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School attended a powerful presentation on Wednesday by Musa Mambula, the national spiritual adviser for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), also known as the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria,” reported Eric Fitzsimmons of “The Reporter” newspaper in Lansdale, Pa. Mambula has been on a lengthy speaking tour in Pennsylvania and other areas, and is receiving coverage from local media. The Reporter article noted that Mambula spoke about the history of the Brethren movement in Nigeria “and its founders commitment to loving ‘like Jesus. Standing with those who are at the margins, loving even their enemies, praying for those who persecuted them.’ A love, Mambula continued, ‘that precludes violence and killing.’” Read the full article at www.thereporteronline.com/lifestyle/20150114/nigerian-church-leader-speaks-to-christopher-dock-students-in-wake-of-boko-haram-violence.
  • The Council of District Executives is holding its winter meeting Jan. 15-22 in Florida. Also meeting concurrently are other denominational leadership groups including the Inter-Agency Forum and the Annual Conference officers.
  • Bethany Seminary’s next Engage campus visit day is March 27. “Engage is an opportunity for prospective students to experience a day on the Bethany campus attending classes, worship, and meeting with faculty and current students,” said an announcement. “This is an excellent opportunity to explore the possibility of pursuing theological education and to discover what makes Bethany unique and distinctive. Come experience Bethany by joining others and our community for a day of study, worship, information, and discernment.” Find more information, a tentative schedule, and registration for Engage at www.bethanyseminary.edu/visit/engage.
  • Since October, On Earth Peace's Nonviolent Social Change ministry has been applying the organizing skills of Kingian nonviolence to the issues that have been publicly framed by Michael Brown's killing in Ferguson, Mo., reported the On Earth Peace newsletter this week. “Our Racial Justice Strategy and Research Team has conducted more than 20 conversations with people in and beyond our current constituency, as the team identifies ways that On Earth Peace might encourage or catalyze our supporters and congregations to challenge extrajudicial killings of people of color and related issues.” Team members and advisors include Tami Grandison, Matt Knieling, Ashley Olson, Sharon Crossen, Bill Scheurer, Beth Gunzel, Tobé Ekwealor, Gail Atchinson, Melisa Grandison, and Matt Guynn. The team's first phase of work is expected to complete in late January, the newsletter reported.
  • Pacific Southwest District is celebrating the installation of Russ Matteson as district executive minister on Feb. 28 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. “Plan now to join the PSWD Policy Board for this special time of consecration at Pomona Fellowship Church of the Brethren,” said an announcement in the district newsletter.
  • In more news from Pacific Southwest, the district already has released the theme and logo for its 2015 district conference planned for Nov. 13-15 at Hillcrest, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community in La Verne, Calif. Led by moderator Eric Bishop, the conference will focus on the theme, “Justice: Called to Be Just Christians” (Matthew 5:1-12 and 25:33-45). Follow the moderator’s blog at www.pswdcob.org/moderator.
  • The Global Women’s Project has welcomed Carol Leland of Harrisonburg, Va., as a new member on its steering committee. She is joining steering committee members Pearl Miller of Warrensburg, Mo.; Kim Hill Smith of Minneapolis, Minn.; Emily Matteson of Modesto, Calif.; Tina Rieman of El Cerrito, Calif.; and Anke Pietsch of Lebanon, Ohio. Among resources for upcoming events offered by the Global Women’s Project are resources for celebrating International Women's Day on Sunday, March 8. “GWP has a number of beautiful writings and ideas for celebrating women on our website at www.globalwomensproject.org. Just click on the tab for International Women’s Day Resources. We are continually adding to our resources for this important day,” said the newsletter. Another Global Women's Project resource is the annual Lenten Devotional Calendar. Last year's calendar designed with help from Etch Marketing and Design Studio--a student-run, nonprofit marketing and graphic design firm affiliated with McPherson (Kan.) College--was so popular that it was printed a second time. Order individually or multiple copies for a church or receive a page of the calendar by e-mail each day through Lent, beginning Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18. Contact info@globalwomensproject.org.
  • Winter Park (Fla.) Church of the Brethren celebrates its 90th anniversary on Feb. 15. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. and will include a service led by pastor Robert Dunlap, and a video presentation “90 Years & Going Strong.” “Many visitors, former members, and pastors who’ve been a big part of the ministry over the years have been invited,” said an announcement. A lunch in the adjacent Bethany Fellowship Hall will be provided for everyone who has come to help celebrate. Streaming online at www.winterparkchurch.com will be provided. For more information contact Tanya Hastler, 407-644-3981 or church@winterparkchurch.com.
  • Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren is hosting “A Night to Remember: A Ken Medema Concert” on Saturday, Feb. 14. Dessert starts at 7 p.m., and the concert is from 7:30-9 p.m. in the sanctuary. Tickets are $10 per person. “Save the date!” said the church newsletter.
  • Virlina District is planning Pilgrimage XIX for March 13-15 at Camp Bethel. The event is an annual spiritual retreat for adults of all ages. “It is for the young and old, for the new Christian and the one who has been a Christian for decades,” said an announcement in the district newsletter. “Pilgrimage is for everyone because no matter where a person is on his or her faith journey, it is always good to take another step and draw closer to God.” The weekend includes talks, small groups, fun, worship, and more. For more information contact 336-765-5263 or haynesmk1986@yahoo.com.
  • The next classes in the Ventures series hosted by McPherson (Kan.) College will be held on Feb. 7 and March 14. The Feb. 7 courses will be taught by J.D. Bowman on the topics “Innovation on a Timeline: Embracing Your Creativity Angles” (morning) and “Come to the Table, but Bring Your Crayons” (afternoon). The March 14 courses will be taught by Bob Bowman and are titled “Reading the Bible for Spiritual Growth” and “Reading Church History for Spiritual Growth.” Each course costs $15 and will be taught online. Go to www.mcpherson.edu/ventures for more details and how to register.
  • Bridgewater (Va.) College is hosting a presentation by Rais Bhuiyan, who just weeks after the tragic events of 9/11 was shot in the face by a white supremacist, who at that time called himself “the Arab slayer.” Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi American, will speak on “The Healing and Transforming Power of Forgiveness” at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 4, in Cole Hall, said a release from the college. “The man who shot him was Mark Stroman, who confessed to shooting Bhuiyan and killing two other South Asians. He was sentenced to death. After conferring with the families of the other victims, Bhuiyan worked to save Stroman’s life with pleas for clemency that, in 2011, reached the US Supreme Court,” the release said. “Even though Stroman was executed in July 2011, Bhuiyan continues his World Without Hate campaign to promote healing, compassion, and forgiveness. Bhuiyan was named a 2011 American of the Year by Esquire magazine. He received the national 2011 Peace and Justice Award from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Excellence for Human Service Award from United for Change.” His presentation is co-sponsored by the Anna B. Mow Lecture Series and the college’s Center for International Education. The event is free and open to the public.
Source: 01/21/2015 Newsline