Newsline Extra for June 21, 2007

“…A place among those who are sanctified by faith….”

Acts 26:18b

1) Caring Ministries Assembly centers on the theme, ‘Being Family.’
2) Korean-American pastor to join delegation to North Korea.
3) Annual Conference update: Kenyan leader in water development to attend.
4) Annual Conference bits and pieces.
5) 300th anniversary update: Civil Rights Project invites stories.
6) 300th anniversary bits and pieces.

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1) Caring Ministries Assembly centers on the theme, ‘Being Family.’

Speakers, worship, and workshops for the sixth Caring Ministries Assembly will center on the theme “Being Family: Reality and Renewal.” The biennial assembly sponsored by the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC) will be held Sept. 6-8 at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

The theme is based on the belief that the God of creation delights in his children, from Acts 26:18b, in which the believer is blessed with “a place in the family–invited into the company of others to begin real living through Jesus Christ.” The assembly will examine commonalities amidst the variety and diversity of families.

Assembly planners acknowledge that “at its best, a family can be a source of love and acceptance, support and encouragement, nurturing and growth. Yet being part of even a healthy family cannot ensure that individuals will not experience difficult times and challenging relationships. The reality for many people is that family falls short of the ideal and is unable to meet all our expectations for meaningful relationships. This assembly will explore ways members of families can be there for each other, even when reality falls short of expectation.”

Organizers hope that deacons, pastors, Christian educators, chaplains, and other caregivers who attend the assembly will discover how to help families–and faith communities–grow in love, acceptance, forgiveness, reconciliation, celebration, and delight.

Keynote speakers include David H. Jensen, formerly assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Manchester College, currently associate professor at Austin (Texas) Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and author of “Graced Vulnerability: A Theology of Childhood.” An online video of Jensen talking about his views of the assembly theme, and his connections with the Church of the Brethren, is available at ABC’s website http://www.brethren-caregivers.org/.

Also keynoting are Donald Kraybill and Kathryn Eisenbise, co-authors of “The Brethren in a Post Modern World.” Kraybill has served as chair of the Sociology and Social Work Department at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and as director of the Young Center. Eisenbise is a Bethany Theological Seminary graduate pursuing a doctorate in theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.

Bible study leader Curtis Dubble is a retired pastor and leader of the denomination’s Family Ministries program in 1992, and author of “Real Families from Patriarchs to Prime Time” for the People of the Covenant series of Brethren Press.

Leaders in worship include Annual Conference moderator Belita Mitchell, pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa.; and Marilyn Lerch, pastor of Good Shepherd Church of the Brethren in Blacksburg, Va.

Music throughout the assembly will be led by internationally known musicians Jean and Jim Strathdee, who also will perform a Friday night concert bringing a message of compassion, justice, healing, and hope. The concert is part of the assembly, but the public is welcome to attend. A free will offering will be taken.

Registration materials and promotional posters for the assembly have been mailed to all Church of the Brethren congregations. For the registration brochure listing workshops and speakers visit http://www.brethren-caregivers.org/ or call 800-323-8039. Continuing education units for ministers will be available. For the first time attendees may register online using a credit card. Registration cost is $125 until Aug. 1, after which the registration fee increases to $150.

–Mary Dulabaum is director of communications for the Association of Brethren Caregivers.

2) Korean-American pastor to join delegation to North Korea.

Rounding out a Church of the Brethren sponsored delegation to North Korea this fall will be Young Son Min, senior pastor of Grace Christian Church in Hatfield, Pa., a congregation of the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren.

The visit to North Korea is under the aegis of the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Church of the Brethren General Board. Other participants are Bev Abma of the Foods Resource Bank, Kalamazoo, Mich.; John Doran, soil scientist, Lincoln, Neb.; and Tim McElwee, Manchester College Peace Studies Institute, North Manchester, Ind.

The visit centers on a large agricultural cooperative that has been the recipient of a series of Global Food Crisis Fund grants. The venture seeks to open doors of understanding and foster reconciliation.

–Howard Royer is manager of the Global Food Crisis Fund for the Church of the Brethren General Board.

3) Annual Conference update: Kenyan leader in water development to attend.

Among overseas guests planning to attend the 2007 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren is Hanah Mwachofi from Kenya. The Annual Conference is scheduled for Cleveland, Ohio, from June 30-July 4.

Mwachofi is a leader in the Kenya Bamba program that promotes integrated water development in one of the country’s poorest sections. Slated to arrive in Cleveland late Monday, July 2, she is to be at the Foods Resource Bank exhibit, the Ecumenical Luncheon, and the Global Food Crisis Fund insight session on Tuesday.

Mwachofi is one of four overseas guests being brought by the Foods Resource Bank to tour growing projects and to participate in the organization’s annual meeting on July 17-19 at Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio. In 2001 Kenya Bamba was selected as the first overseas program to receive Foods Resource Bank support.

On July 14 she will be a breakfast guest of the Grossnickle/Hagerstown/Welty/Harmony growing project in Maryland. In 2006 this project of churches in the Mid-Atlantic District of the Church of the Brethren raised $18,275 for the Kenya Bamba program, an amount doubled by a match grant from USAID.

4) Annual Conference bits and pieces:

  • Onsite reporting from the 2007 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, will be posted daily at http://www.brethren.org/, beginning late evening June 29 through July 4. The Conference web pages at www.brethren.org/genbd/newsline/2007/AC2007/Index.html will offer daily overviews of Conference events, reports from business sessions, feature stories, a photos page, and a review of worship along with the day’s sermon text and worship bulletin.
  • A “Peace Witness to Draw Attention to the War on Iraq” is planned for Sunday afternoon, July 1, at 4:30-6 p.m., during the 2007 Annual Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. The witness is sponsored by the Brethren Witness/Washington Office and On Earth Peace, along with other peace groups. Participants are invitd to meet outside the Cleveland Convention Center, to march five blocks to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument for a public witness against the war in Iraq. This event is held in partnership with Cleveland Peace Action, the Interfaith Task Force of Cleveland, and other partners in peace from the Cleveland area. “Stop by our exhibit area for more information and to make signs for the witness,” said the announcement from the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.
  • The Brethren Witness/Washington Office is featuring a variety of partner organizations at its booth in the Annual Conference exhibit hall. On Sunday afternoon, July 1, the featured guest will be Cassandra Carmichael, director of the Eco-Justice program of the National Council of Churches. On Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, July 1-2, the booth will host Becky Flory, of North Country Fair Trade. Virginia Nesmith, director of the National Farm Workers Ministry, will be in the exhibit area on Monday morning. On Monday afternoon, the booth will feature the work of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, and Alan Gamble, the new director of the program, will be in attendance. On Tuesday morning, July 3, Rachel Gross, coordinator of the Death Row Support Project, will give information about how to become a writing partner with someone on death row. On Tuesday afternoon, Don Vermilyea will be at the booth to talk about his Walk Across America, following his presentation at the UnLuncheon, and photographs from the walk will be displayed. Throughout the Conference, the booth will host Peter Buck, interfaith director of Equal Exchange, who will give information about how congregations can become engaged with fair trade. Conference-goers also may bring “left behind” electronics for recycling to the booth. The Brethren Witness/Washington Office invites participants to recycle old cell phones and chargers, battery chargers, and other small hand-held electronics, as well as bulletins, paper, plastic bottles, and cans.
  • Trees for Life in Wichita, Kan., has been chosen as the recipient of the second “Partners in Service” award from Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). The award recognizes an individual, project, or congregation that has demonstrated exceptional commitment in partnering with BVS to continue the work of Jesus. Balbir and Treva Mathur, founders of Trees for Life, will accept the award at the BVS Luncheon at Annual Conference. Balbir Mathur will speak for the luncheon on the topic, “The Song of Service.” Trees for Life, a nonprofit organization that helps to plant fruit trees in developing countries, has had 24 BVS volunteers since it became a participating project with BVS in 1990. These volunteers have helped further the organization’s mission of providing a low-cost, self-renewing source of food while protecting the environment.
  • Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) recently released its 2006 report, which will be available at the BVS booth in the exhibit hall at Annual Conference. The report provides a general recap of activities, new projects, and statistics from the past year, including pictures of some of the current volunteers. A copy has been sent to all district offices, and extra copies may be picked up at the booth in Cleveland, or request a copy from the BVS office at 800-323-8039.

Book signings at the Brethren Press Bookstore at Annual Conference are planned:

  • Donald Miller, former general secretary of the General Board and professor emeritus at Bethany Theological Seminary, will sign copies of “Seeking Peace in Africa: Stories from African Peacemakers,” a book he co-edited with Scott Holland, Lon Fendall, and Dean Johnson. The book results from a consultation of the Historic Peace Churches held in Kenya, and tells the stories of responses of Africans who have lived through horrific violence. Included are tales of despair at the loss of millions of lives due to warfare, riots, terror, starvation, AIDS, and disease; and stories of courageous peacemaking in nearly impossible circumstances. The signing will take place Sunday, July 1, from 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
  • Stephen Longenecker will sign copies of his book, “Brethren During the Age of World War,” on Sunday, July 1, from 4:30-5 p.m. at the bookstore. The book is the most recent volume in the series of Brethren history “source books” published by Brethren Press. Longencker is professor of history and chair of the Department of History and Political Science at Bridgwater (Va.) College.
  • Others planning book signings at the Conference include Chris Raschka, renowned illustrator of children’s books and featured speaker at the Brethren Press Breakfast on Monday, July 2; Bethany Theological Seminary professor Russell Haitch, who will sign copies of his recently published book, “From Exorcism to Ecstasy: Eight Views of Baptism”; and Graydon Snyder, Brethren author and retired seminary professor, who will be signing a variety of his volumes.

5) 300th anniversary update: Civil Rights Project invites stories.

At the 1963 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., African-American pastor Tom Wilson of First Church of the Brethren in Chicago declared, “What is at stake in this growing racial conflict? Apart from the restoration of human dignity and worth, and the need for bringing relief to those who have suffered long and patiently at the hand of injustice, nothing less than the integrity of the church itself is at stake. The world, and more specifically, the Negro communities, have grown weary of the church’s lofty pronouncements and pious platitudes. They await our answer today. They want to see, to feel, and to taste of the redemptive love of Christ.”

Wilson’s words resonated with Brethren across the US as many heeded the call to action by taking an active role in the struggle for racial equality. Although Brethren were not united on the role of the church in the Civil Rights Movement, the stories of pastors, college students, congregations, and individuals both young and old express the deep passion and dedication of many Brethren to the cause.

The Brethren Witness/Washington Office has been collecting the stories of Brethren participants in the Civil Rights Movement since last September, with the ultimate goal of a book publication for the 300th anniversary celebration in 2008. So far, stories have been collected from Brethren all over the denomination, from California to Chicago to Pennsylvania. Stories include those of people who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., and other prominent civil rights leaders; recollections of those who participated in the Selma, Montgomery, and Albany campaigns; memories of the March on Washington in Aug. 1963; stories from those who faced hatred, violence, and criticism; and stories from those who remember the Civil Rights Movement as the most influential time in their lives.

As the Brethren Witness/Washington Office continues with this project, Brethren are encouraged to contact the office with their personal stories and experiences with the Civil Rights Movement. Contact the Brethren Witness/Washington Office,337 North Carolina Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20003; 800-785-3246; washington_office_gb@brethren.org.

Those who are attending the 2007 Annual Conference are invited to visit the Brethren Witness/Washington Office booth, where there will be an opportunity to record personal stories, or to receive more information about the project.

–Emily O’Donnell is a legislative associate at the Brethren Witness/Washington Office of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

6) 300th anniversary bits and pieces:

  • A “Bible Visit Booth” at the 2007 Annual Conference in Cleveland will display Sauer Bibles. These historic Bibles were printed by Christopher Sauer, Jr., a colonial Brethren printer. The display has been traveling to visit churches in the Mid-Atlantic area, among others, and now will be offered at the Conference in hopes of “encouraging Brethren to become faithful readers of the Bible, increasing their appreciation, study, and application of it.” Organizers also hope to “create a spirit of unity and renewal as the traveling Sauer Bible links us with those of the past and with each other.” Al Huston is coordinator of Bible Visit, and also has produced a DVD about the Sauer Bible to help celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Brethren. The DVD is suitable for use in anniversary celebrations, membership classes, Bible studies, and more. For more information go to the Bible Visit website at http://www.biblevisit.com/.
  • Those who are planning to attend the 300th Anniversary Celebration and 2008 World Assembly in Schwarzenau, Germany, on Aug. 2-3, 2008, are requested to contact Dale Ulrich at 26 College Woods Dr., Bridgewater, VA 22812; 540-828-6548; daulrich@comcast.net. This celebration is being planned and coordinated by the Board of Directors of Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., representing all of the Brethren bodies. Ulrich is serving as the Brethren Encyclopedia coordinator for the event.

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Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Todd Flory contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with the next regularly scheduled Newsline set for July 4, offering a review of news from Annual Conference 2007. Other special issues may be sent as needed. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.