Newsline for July 4, 2007

“Proclaim the power of God”

— 2007 Annual Conference theme from Psalm 68:34-35

NEWS
1) Annual Conference 2007 makes history, addresses complex and lengthy business agenda.
1b) La Conferencia Anual de 2007 hace historia y trata con una agenda grande y compleja.
2) Annual Conference elections and appointments.
3) Annual Conference bits and pieces:
4) General Board sets budget parameter, gives ‘first read’ to recommendations for Brethren Service Center.
5) Final building site at former Bethany Seminary location is sold.
6) Grout calls young adults to enter into God’s kingdom.
7) Brethren bits: Correction, personnel, and more.

PERSONNEL
8) Genelle Wine resigns as coordinator of orientation for BVS.

FEATURE
9) Letter from Louisiana: We are the hands and feet of Christ.

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1) Annual Conference 2007 makes history, addresses complex and lengthy business agenda.

Belita D. Mitchell, pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa., has made history as the first African-American woman to serve as moderator of Annual Conference. “Jesus never intended the church to fail,” she told the Conference when she preached on Sunday morning. “I don’t believe declining membership is a part of his mission plan.”

Delegates faced a lengthy and complex business agenda. In a leading item of business, the Conference approved phasing out the Brethren Medical Plan’s medical insurance component for active ministers. The health insurance coverage will be phased out no sooner than Dec. 31, 2007. Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) will work to assist ministers who are in the plan to find alternate coverage.

The decision came as delegates approved a report of the Brethren Medical Plan Study Committee appointed in 2005 by Annual Conference. BBT called for the study, announcing that the plan was in a “death spiral” of decreased membership, erosion of a good spread of risk, and increased health care costs and premiums.

The plan has offered health insurance for pastors, church employees, district employees, employees of Conference agencies and affiliated agencies and institutions, and their families.

The committee recommended BBT phase out medical insurance for ministers and retirees, while continuing to explore viability of the plan for agencies, which have 100 percent plan participation, and continuing to offer longterm disability, life, vision, and dental insurance.

The report was approved with two changes, that BBT include “members of the ministers’ group who are currently retired or retire in the future and who are age 65 or older” as it explores viability of the plan for agency employees, and that BBT “mutually assist in finding” alternate medical coverage for current participants.

In addition to the Brethren Medical Plan, the following business was addressed:

  • Intercultural Study Committee report: The report was adopted. Based on Revelation 7:9, the report engages the denomination in intentional steps to become intercultural. Changes are prescribed for all levels of the church, including making intercultural inclusion a part of vision statements, hiring processes, and continuing education for ministers and agency staff.
  • Review and Evaluation Study Committee report: The Conference adopted the ten recommendation of the report. The first recommendation merges the General Board and the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC) into an entity called “The Church of the Brethren,” with the new board also replacing the roles and functions of the General Board and the Annual Conference Council, uniting them into a single body. An amendment struck “USA” from the end of the name of the new entity. The recommendation also encourages On Earth Peace to join. The Conference named an implementation committee: the executives of the General Board, ABC, On Earth Peace, and Annual Conference, and elected members Gary Crim, John Neff, David Sollenberger.
  • Doing Church Business Study Committee report: The report was received “as a resource and study information” and “as possible options for future Annual Conferences.” The item was continued from 2006, after referral to the Program Feasibility Committee for study of the financial implications.
  • Christian Churches Together: A recommendation that the Church of the Brethren become a full participant in Christian Churches Together (CCT) was approved.
  • Query: Reverse Membership Trend: A lengthy recommendation from Standing Committee was adopted. The query called for solutions to declining membership in the church. The answer refers to the Great Commission, points to a 1981 study “Diminishing Membership in the Church of the Brethren,” and recommends actions to be taken by congregations, districts, and church agencies.
  • Query: Child Abuse Prevention: The query was referred to ABC.
  • Query: Annual Conference Schedule: Concerns of the query, which was prompted by the financial burden of holding an annual meeting and the rise of new communication technology, were accepted and passed to the Conference leadership.
  • Update to Annual Conference Polity: A recommendation for a change in location rotation for Conference, to increase attendance by holding the meeting more often in the east, nearer the center of Brethren population, was approved.
  • Adjustment to the cash salary table for pastors: A 2.7 percent increase for 2008 was adopted, presented by the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. A group of ministers came forward during the committee’s report to express concern about the phasing out of health insurance. Chair Linda Frey Barkdoll pledged the committee’s support. “We would urge delegates and everyone present to support pastors and their families,” she said. “It is critical that health insurance is offered.”

1b) La Conferencia Anual de 2007 hace historia y trata con una agenda grande y compleja.

Belita D. Mitchell, Pastora de la Primera Iglesia de los Hermanos en Harrisburg, Pa., ha hecho historia como la primera mujer Afro-Americana moderadora de la Conferencia Anual. “Jesús nunca tuvo la intención de que la iglesia fallara,” dijo Belita a la Conferencia durante su sermón del domingo por la mañana. “Yo no creo que la decadencia de membresía es parte de su plan de misión.”

Los delegados trataron con una agenda grande y compleja. Un asunto importante que la Conferencia aprobó fue retirar paulatinamente del plan de Beneficios de los Hermanos (BBT) la aseguranza médica para ministros actuales. Esta cobertura terminará no antes del 31 de diciembre de 2007. El Grupo Fideicomiso de Beneficios de los Hermanos (BBT) ayudara a los ministros actualmente en esta aseguranza a buscar otra alternativa.

Esta decisión fue tomada cuando los delegados aprobaron el reporte del Comité de Estudio del Plan Medico de los Hermanos, el cual fue nombrado en 2005 por la Conferencia Anual. BBT pidió el estudio después de anunciar que el plan era un “espiral de muerte” con membresía decadente, merma de mucho riesgo y aumento de costo.

Este plan ha ofrecido hasta el presente aseguranza médica a ministros, empleados de la iglesia, empleados de distritos, empleados de agencias de la Conferencia e instituciones afiliadas y sus familias.

El Comité recomendó que BBT retire paulatinamente la aseguranza médica para ministros y todas las personas jubiladas, pero que continúe explorando viabilidad para continuar la aseguranza para las agencias, las cuales tienen 100% de participación y que continúe ofreciendo aseguranza de incapacidad a largo plazo, así como también un seguro de vida, vista y dental.

El reporte fue aprobado con dos cambios, que cuando BBT busque viabilidad para seguir cubriendo a los empleados de las agencias, también incluya los “miembros del grupo de ministros” actualmente jubilados o por jubilarse y cuya edad es por lo menos 65 años” y que, BBT “asista mutuamente a encontrar” aseguranza médica alternativa para los participantes actuales.

Además del plan de aseguranza médica también se trataron los siguientes asuntos:

  • Reporte del Comité de Estudio Intercultural: El reporte fue adoptado. Basado en Apocalipsis 7:9, el reporte pide que la iglesia haga algo concreto para incluir otras culturas. Estos cambios deberán ser en todos los niveles de la iglesia, con inclusión intercultural como parte de los comunicados de visión, el proceso de emplear personas y la educación continua para ministros y personal de las agencias.
  • Reporte del Comité de Estudio de Revisión y Evaluación: La Conferencia adoptó la décima recomendación del reporte. La primera recomendación combina la Mesa Directiva General con la Asociación de Hermanos Proveedores de Cuidado (ABC) en una entidad llamada “La Iglesia de los Hermanos,” con la nueva mesa directiva reemplazando también los roles y funciones de la Mesa Directiva General y el Concilio de la Conferencia Anual, uniéndolos en una sola entidad. Una modificación quitó la palabra “USA” del final del nombre de esta nueva entidad. La recomendación también anima a la agencia Paz en la Tierra a que se les una. La Conferencia nombró un comité de implementación: los ejecutivos de la Mesa Directiva General, ABC, Paz en la Tierra y la Conferencia Anual, y eligió como miembros a Gary Crim, John Neff y David Sollenberger.
  • Reporte del Comité de Estudio que Trata los Asuntos de la Iglesia: El reporte fue recibido “como un recurso e información para estudiar” y “como una posible opción para futuras Conferencias Anuales.” Este asunto se continúo de 2006, después de haberlo referido al Comité del Programa de viabilidad para estudiar sus implicaciones financieras.
  • Iglesias Cristianas Unidas: Se aprobó la recomendación que la Iglesia de los Hermanos participe de lleno.
  • Consulta: Como Revertir el Patrón de Membresía: Se adopto una recomendación del Comité permanente. Esta consulta pide soluciones a la decadencia de membresía en la iglesia. La respuesta cita la Gran Comisión, según el estudio de 1981 “La decadencia de Membresía en la Iglesia de los Hermanos” y recomienda que tanto las iglesias como los distritos y todas las agencias de la iglesia tomen acción.
  • Consulta: Prevención de Abuso de niños: Esta consulta fue referida a ABC.
  • Consulta: El programa de la Conferencia Anual: Los puntos mencionados en esta consulta la cual se dio a raíz del problema financiero de una reunión anual y la nueva tecnología en comunicación, fueron aceptados y pasados al liderato de la Conferencia.
  • Actualización de la estructura de gobierno de la Conferencia Anual: Se aprobó la recomendación de cambiar la rotación de donde las próximas Conferencias tomaran lugar, para que sean más seguido en el Este donde vive la mayoría de la población de los Hermanos, con el propósito de aumentar la asistencia.
  • Ajustes en la tabla de salarios para ministros: Se adoptó un aumento de 2.7 para 2008 el cual fue presentado por el Comité de Beneficios y Compensación para ministros. Durante el reporte del comité, un grupo de ministros expresó su preocupación por el cambio en la aseguranza médica. La presidenta, Linda Frey Barkdoll, les aseguró que tendrán el apoyo del comité. “Urgimos a los delegados y todos aquí presentes que apoyen a los pastores y sus familias,” dijo ella. “Es crítico que se ofrezca aseguranza médica.”

Lista de elecciones y nombramientos hechos por la Conferencia Anual de 2007:

  • Nuevo Moderador (para 2008) de la Conferencia Anual: David K. Shumate
  • Secretario de la Conferencia Anual: Fred W. Swartz
  • Comité de Programa y Arreglos: Sarah B. Steele
  • Comité de Consejería Pastoral para Beneficios y Compensación: Peter C. Kaltenbaugh Jr.
  • Comité de Relaciones entre Iglesias: James O. Eikenberry
  • Asociación de Hermanos Proveedores de Cuidado: J. Colleen Michael. Se afirmó el nombramiento de Marilyn E. Bussey, Wayne T. Scott, James L. Tiffin, y Chris Whiteacre.
  • Seminario Teológico Bethany, representando las universidades: Carol A. Scheppard; representando el clero; Lisa L. Hazen. Se afirmó el nombramiento de Martha Farahat y Connie Rutt.
  • Grupo Fideicomiso de Beneficios de los Hermanos: Deborah E. Romary. Se afirmó el nombramiento de Janice Bratton y Ann Quay Davis.
  • La Mesa Directiva General plenaria: Terrell Lewis. Se afirmó el nombramiento de Frances Townsend (Distrito de Michigan), Dan Patry (Distrito del Norte de Indiana) y John Moyers (Distrito del Oeste de Marva).
  • Paz en la Tierra: Susan Chapman. Se afirmó el nombramiento de Doris Abdullah y Don Mitchell.

2) Annual Conference elections and appointments.

Following are the elections and appointments made by the 2007 Annual Conference, listed by position:

  • Annual Conference Moderator-Elect: David K. Shumate
  • Annual Conference Secretary: Fred W. Swartz
  • Program and Arrangements Committee: Sarah B. Steele
  • Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee: Peter C. Kaltenbaugh Jr.
  • Committee on Interchurch Relations: James O. Eikenberry
  • Association of Brethren Caregivers: J. Colleen Michael. The appointments of Marilyn E. Bussey, Wayne T. Scott, James L. Tiffin, and Chris Whitacre were affirmed.
  • Bethany Theological Seminary, representing colleges: Carol A. Scheppard; representing clergy: Lisa L. Hazen. The appointments of Martha Farahat and Connie Rutt were affirmed.
  • Brethren Benefit Trust: Deborah E. Romary. The appointments of Janice Bratton and Ann Quay Davis were affirmed.
  • General Board, at large: Terrell Lewis. The appointments of Frances Townsend (Michigan District), Dan Petry (Northern Indiana District), and John Moyers (West Marva District) were affirmed.
  • On Earth Peace: Susan Chapman. The appointments of Doris Abdullah and Don Mitchell were affirmed.

3) Annual Conference bits and pieces:

Site: Cleveland (Ohio) Convention Center

Registration: 3,578 including 831 delegates and 2,747 nondelegates.

New congregations: Harvest Fellowship, Wabash, Ind.; Latino Community Brethren Church Fellowship, Fresno, Calif.; Community of Joy, Salisbury, Md.

Brethren Benefit Trust Fitness Challenge: Top finishers in the 5K walk/run were Jerry Crouse (male runner, 18:37), Katherine O’ Donnell (female runner, 22:13), Don Shankster (male walker, 33:09), and Bev Anspaugh (female walker, 33:09).

Blood drive: Brethren gave 212 units of blood over three days.

Quilt auction: The auction of quilts, wall hangings, and an autographed 300th anniversary calendar raised $7,558.58 for hunger, sponsored by the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren.

Annual Conference 2009: New dates of June 27-July 1, 2009, were announced for the Conference to be held in San Diego Calif.

4) General Board sets budget parameter, gives ‘first read’ to recommendations for Brethren Service Center.

At a pre-Annual Conference meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, the General Board set a budget parameter for 2008, gave a first reading to the report from a committee exploring ministry options at the Brethren Service Center, acted on a resolution against the use of depleted uranium weapons, acted on mission funding in Haiti, and received a report naming a lead team of mission workers for Sudan, among other business.

The 2008 budget parameter was set at $5,803,000 expense, and $5,892,000 income. In funding and finance reports, the board heard that although the agency experienced a good year financially in 2006, this year’s giving to date has fallen about 9.2 percent.

The board engaged in a first read-through of a report from Brethren Service Center Ministry Options Exploration Committee, presented by chair Dale Minnich. A final report and recommendations will come to the board for action in October. The report makes a foundational recommendation for the center in New Windsor, Md.: “That the Brethren Service Center continue in its present location and that its ministries be strengthened and undergirded with new vision.” A recommendation directed to the General Board is to “strongly affirm its ministries based at the Brethren Service Center–Brethren Disaster Ministries, lease partnerships with other agencies, Material Resources, and the New Windsor Conference Center–and plan to support their continued development.”

The rest of the report gives a context for the committee’s work, states the mission of the Brethren Service Center, reviews ministries presently located at the center, recommends enhancements to the center and organizational changes, and addresses funding. The committee will hold a series of hearings on its report at the Brethren Service Center in August, and is gathering and sharing responses to its report.

In a report on the Sudan mission, director Bradley Bohrer announced the names of the lead team of mission workers: Jim and Pam Hardenbrook of Idaho, and Matt and Kristy Messick of Colorado. An assessment team also has been named for the initiative: Phil and Louise Rieman and Enten Eller. The assessment team plans a trip to Sudan from July 8-Aug. 6.

A decision with regard to funding of the Church of the Brethren mission in Haiti was made by the board, affirming a move by staff to add the mission in Haiti to the mission projects supported by the Emerging Global Mission Fund.

A resolution against the use of depleted uranium weapons was adopted. It was presented by Brethren Witness/Washington Office director Phil Jones, who introduced it as a partnership with Christian Peacemaker Teams and the World Council of Churches, which both have worked against such weapons. The paper states that “the primary danger of using depleted uranium in weapons comes from breathing in the DU dust created by burning or exploded weaponry, or from ingesting DU dust that has contaminated the food or water supply. A growing body of evidence suggests such exposure may increase a person’s cancer risk and cause birth defects.” The resolution declares the use of depleted uranium weapons as “a specific and compelling example of the sinfulness of war,” appeals for a halt to their manufacture, lifts up the work of CPT and the WCC, and directs the Brethren Witness/Washington Office to advocate for elimination of the weapons, among other actions.

In other business, the board gave a first reading to part of a revision of the Ethics in Ministry Relations paper, with the full document to come to an October meeting; received reports on recent conferences including the first National Junior High Conference; heard an update on Brethren Disaster Ministries; recognized retiring Bethany Seminary president Eugene Roop; and recognized board members who are completing their terms of service: chair Jeff Neuman-Lee, Frank Ramirez, Janet Stutzman, and Angela Lahman Yoder. The meeting closed with prayer and consecration of the General Board exhibit.

During a reorganization meeting later in the Conference week, a new executive committee was named: Tim Harvey, chair; Dale Minnich, vice chair; Michael Benner; Vickie Samland; Kate Spire; Ken Wenger.

5) Final building site at former Bethany Seminary location is sold.

Sunrise Senior Living has purchased the final building site at Fountain Square of Lombard, Ill., completing a 15-year process of selling the former location of Bethany Theological Seminary. Bethany formed Fountain Square, Inc., with the Shaw Company of Chicago to sell and develop the property in cooperation with the city of Lombard. The seminary relocated to Richmond, Ind. in 1994.

The 50-plus acres in Lombard now are home to a mixture of stores, restaurants, condominiums, a hotel, and the anticipated senior living community. The property includes ponds and green space.

“I’m quite satisfied with the new occupants of the property,” said Eugene F. Roop, president of the seminary. “Fountain Square of Lombard was an unexpected way to creatively influence the development of that retail, restaurant, and residential complex. Each business has a vested interest and say in the governance, as opposed to a group of businesses leasing space, with one owner who can sell the entire property for a financial return. We publicly express deep appreciation to the Shaw Company and to its president, Denny Stine, for their commitment and persistence in seeing the project through with us.”

The income that the seminary received when Fountain Square, Inc., was formed retired all previous debt. Additional revenue has been invested in an endowment to fund scholarships and Bethany’s educational programs.

–Marcia Shetler is director of Public Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

6) Grout calls young adults to enter into God’s kingdom.

This year’s Church of the Brethren Young Adult Conference, held at Camp Harmony near Hooversville, Pa., brought together about 85 people Memorial Day weekend. Paul Grout of the A Place Apart community in Putney, Vt., provided keynote leadership through the weekend, speaking on the theme “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers” from James 1.

“You can sit through hundreds of sermons, and at the end of your life not understand the kingdom of God,” Grout told the group. “You have to enter into it.” Grout discussed elements needed to be fully alive and find wholeness, moving into a new paradigm of faith in which seeking is key.

Several young adults planned worship for the weekend, with Grout and Meryl Reist preaching in two of the services and a group doing a drama in a third. Brethren folksinger Joseph Helfrich led music. The conference schedule also included a campfire, games, recreation, workshops, and singing.

Next year’s National Young Adult Conference is a larger event, scheduled for Aug. 11-15, 2008, in Estes Park, Colo.

–Walt Wiltschek is editor of the Church of the Brethren “Messenger” magazine.

7) Brethren bits: Correction, personnel, and more.

  • Correction: The e-mail and website addresses for “Brethren Life and Thought” were given incorrectly in the Newsline of June 20. The correct e-mail address is blt@bethanyseminary.edu; the correct Internet address is www.bethanyseminary.edu/blt.
  • Mary Munson is retiring as program assistant for the Global Mission Partnerships Office of the Church of the Brethren General Board, located in Elgin, Ill. Effective date of her retirement is Sept. 30. She has worked for the General Board for 18 years, beginning as secretary for Africa and the Middle East in May of 1989, and transitioning to secretary for Global Mission Partnerships during the General Board’s restructuring in 1997. Munson’s current position began in 2000. Her responsibilities have included supporting the work of the executive director, facilitating the sending and supporting of numerous mission workers, delegations, and workcamps during this time, bridging many transitions in staffing, and engaging constituency concerns in the work of supporting the Church of the Brethren’s international mission.
  • Elaine Hyde, who has served as conference coordinator at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., since 1999, has announced her decision to retire effective June 30. She has been an integral part of the growth of the New Windsor Conference Center into a retreat venue for many groups of varying religious beliefs, and for many secular groups.
  • She is looking forward to spending more time with her grandchildren and to travel with her daughter, Tara.
  • Peggy Bruell has tendered her resignation from Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) as of June 29, following almost 20 years of work for the agency. She began working for BBT on Oct. 14, 1987, serving for most of her tenure with Brethren Insurance Plans. One of her main responsibilities and specialties was understanding and working with medical claims. However, as the insurance department was downsized due to moving to a fully insured medical plan and then subsequently back to a self-insured model with a third party administrator, Bruell was shifted to also work in Information Services, Pension, and, most recently, in a shared status between General Office Services and Brethren Foundation. On July 2, she began a new job with a firm where she now bills for providers of medical services. “Peggy will be missed at BBT as a colleague and a friend among the BBT staff and the General Offices community, but we wish her the best as she returns to fulltime work in the medical claims field,” said Wil Nolen, BBT president.
  • The Church of the Brethren General Board seeks a coordinator of Orientation for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), to fill a fulltime, salaried position beginning Sept. 17. The coordinator is responsible for directing and coordinating the application process and the orientation programs of BVS, including organizing and scheduling facilities, resource people, and volunteers; provides administrative back up in the absence of the BVS director; and participates as an active member of the BVS staff team. Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage and theology; communication at a professional level, both verbally and in writing; demonstrated administrative and management skills; ability to maintain flexibility with evolving program needs; demonstrated expertise in group dynamics; and ability to supervise and utilize volunteers. Previous BVS experience will be helpful, experience in group training and experience in cross-cultural awareness is required. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field is required. The application deadline is Aug. 3. To apply, complete the General Board application form, submit a resume and letter of application, and request three references to send letters of recommendation to the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren General Board, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 258; kkrog_gb@brethren.org.
  • The search is under way for a new general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC) to succeed Bob Edgar, who is leaving the council to be president of the national advocacy group Common Cause. The NCC is the leading ecumenical organization among Christians in the US. It encompasses 35 member communions including Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox communions. The Church of the Brethren is a member communion. The NCC Governing Board is seeking candidates with extraordinary qualifications to take on a challenging job. The position description calls for a man or woman who is “proactive, creative, and entrepreneurial,” and–whether ordained or lay–is “committed to Christ,” and “a visionary with the maturity, confidence, wisdom, and collaborative skills necessary to garner the trust and confidence of a diverse and complex organization.” The search committee is also looking for a person who is “emotionally mature with a healthy ego in check; even-tempered, approachable, thick-skinned and resilient.” For a job description go to www.ncccusa.org/jobs/jobshome.html.
  • The NCC also is accepting applications for young adult “stewards” to volunteer at its 2007 General Assembly on Nov. 6-8 in Woodbridge, N.J. The assembly is the annual gathering of more than 250 delegates from the 35 member communions of the NCC for legislation, worship, fellowship, and ecumenical sharing. A group of young adults from across the country participate in the assembly as stewards and benefit from the opportunity to network with other young adults, discover particulars about a variety of different communions, encounter a rich multicultural environment, worship in an ecumenical setting, experience the church at work, living its unity in Jesus Christ, and interact with national church leaders. Stewards must arrive for orientation on Nov. 4. All expenses, except personal expenses will be covered by the assembly. Deadline for applications is Sept. 14. For an application form go to www.ncccusa.org/pdfs/2007stewardsapplication.pdf.
  • A new book, “Faith in Children: Stories from Faith-Based Children’s Centers,” by Roberta R. Owens of the Legacy of Caring organization, features a chapter on the Church of the Brethren program Children’s Disaster Services (formerly Disaster Child Care). The 264-page book was published by Providence House Publishers in April this year. Legacy of Caring will use profits from the sale of the book to publish future volumes in a “Faith in Children” series and to provide grants to faith-based early care and education programs for innovative projects. For more about Legacy of Caring contact Owens at 229-247-9959 or LegacyofCaring@aol.com.
  • *On Earth Peace has announced the “next round” of its counter-recruitment networking telephone conference calls. On Earth Peace is a peace education and action agency of the Church of the Brethren. The phone calls are for those working against military recruitment in high schools and communities where recruitment for the military takes place. On Earth Peace regularly sponsors these national networking calls as an opportunity for mutual support among those working on issues of military recruitment. The next general networking call is planned for Wed., July 11, at 1-2:30 p.m. eastern time. A call focused on the theme, “Counter-Recruitment in Schools: Access, Legal Information, Success Stories, and Words from the Wise” is planned for Wed., July 18, 1-2:30 p.m. eastern. There will be eight slots available in each call. Facilitators are Matt Guynn, coordinator of Peace Witness for On Earth Peace; and Deb Oskin, peace minister at Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Columbus, Ohio. Contact Matt Guynn at mattguynn@earthlink.net or 765-962-6234 to reserve a place in the conference calls.
  • York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., and Illinois and Wisconsin District of the Church of the Brethren are co-sponsoring a “Green Fair: An Interfaith Initiative to Sustain Creation,” on July 21 from 2-6 p.m. at the church. The objective of the fair is to engage faith communities in the west suburban area of Chicago in a discussion of how to promote an appropriate response to global warming. Participants include keynote speaker Ned Stowe III, senior legislative secretary for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Other speakers will represent Faith in Place, an affiliate of the national Regeneration Project/Interfaith Power and Light, the Illinois Renewable Energy Association, the New Community Project, DuPage County Solid Waste Education Center-SCARCE, and Argonne Transportation Research Center. The congregation requests attendees to contact 630-627-7411 or jomiller071@juno.com. More information is at www.yccob.org/GreenFair.

8) Genelle Wine resigns as coordinator of orientation for BVS.

Genelle Wine has resigned from her position with the Church of the Brethren General Board as coordinator of orientation for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). Her last day in the position will be Oct. 19.

Wine announced her resignation after almost five years of General Board employment. She began employment with the board in 2002, working as assistant to the director of BVS while serving as a volunteer at the BVS office in Elgin, Ill. During her service as a volunteer with BVS she also was a houseparent at Casa de Esperanza de los Niños in Houston, Texas. After her term of volunteer service with BVS, she lived and studied in Germany for a time.

She returned to employment with BVS as coordinator of orientation in August 2004. While serving in the position, she has worked with 13 orientation units and more than 200 volunteers. She also helped start the Church of the Brethren’s annual recognition of Service Sunday.

Wine is originally from Imperial, Neb., and is a graduate of McPherson (Kan.) College. She plans to move to Minneapolis, Minn., and continue working in the area of social justice and serving basic human needs.

9) Letter from Louisiana: We are the hands and feet of Christ.

John and Mary Mueller left their home in Cape Coral, Fla. to volunteer as longterm regional project directors with Brethren Disaster Ministries. The following is excerpted from a letter received from the Muellers on May 24:

“John and I are feeling incredibly blessed to be here in Chalmette, La., in the St. Bernard parish (parishes are a unit of government like counties) doing disaster response work. For those of you who have done disaster response before, Chalmette is a different disaster project in many ways. We are sleeping in trailers and eating at a place called Camp Hope. It is different, but different is not the same as bad. We are still being the hands and feet of Christ to hurting people.

“Part of the reason we feel so blessed is that the people here are wonderful, caring people who make you feel welcome right from the start. They feel that if it wasn’t for the faith-based community, they would be forgotten, and so they thank us for coming.

“This is a very intergenerational community with parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins all living in the area and helping one another. Most everybody lost everything. Every house and every building was flooded. People had to wait on their roofs for days to be rescued. And yet I see a predominately positive, giving, grateful attitude in the community. We see the community rebuilding. Every week there are more businesses opening up or reopening. People are moving back, getting back into their homes.

“Everybody here has a story and all you have to do is stop and listen. Mr. Gonzales misses his wife who died in February. They got married when he was 18 and she was 14. Miss Lillie evacuated to another area and stayed with family but wanted to come back. She is over 80 but tells of how she cleaned out her back yard, using a wheelbarrow to get it out to the street for pick up. Councilwoman Judy tells of being up on the roof for days and nights with nothing, and not knowing when or if help would come. Many of the volunteers who have been here have met Karen. She, her children, and her grandchildren lost everything, yet she insists on cooking for all the volunteers every week that we are working on her house. And cook she does! Everyone who has spent a week eating her food would have to decide if the chicken was the best thing, or the spaghetti and meatballs, or the jambalaya, or the you get the idea.

“John and I are very impressed with the people who we have been getting the work assignments from so far. Most disaster projects traditionally get houses assigned to them by the longterm recovery committee. While we recently did receive some requests from them, which we accepted, it has taken them a long time to start allocating the work. Remember that all the committee members lost everything too, were scattered who knows where, and had no place to hold meetings once they did find each other.

“In the meantime, we have been working with a group called the St. Bernard Project, which was started by two people, Zach and Liz, who had come down to volunteer in Feb. 2006. When they returned to their home in Washington, D.C., they just couldn’t go back to their lives as usual; they knew they had to do something. They moved down here, formed a 501c3, and started helping people get back into their homes.

“So far, they and their organization have helped more than 70 people! They did not have previous construction knowledge, but Zach will tell you, ‘This is doable. This is America. We can help people get back in their homes.’ He says that at times they were scared because they didn’t know what they were doing, but that when they needed an electrician, Pete showed up; when they needed a plumber, Bob showed up; when they needed more help, the Church of the Brethren showed up. I shudder to think of what would not have happened–who would not have gotten help–if they had not followed the leading to do what they could do.

“Thank you, to all the volunteers who have come to help the people here. It is important to remember that the whole program’s success depends on you who make it happen. It is the power of one, as each one of you did what you could and together you made a difference to those who felt overwhelmed and forgotten. Surely, giving of your time and talents is just another way to obey God’s command to love one another.

“We encourage all who feel God nudging them to come and join us. Please remember the people here, the volunteers, the work, and us in your prayers,”

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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. Nevin Dulabaum, Karin Krog, Joan McGrath, and Frances Townsend contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with the next regularly scheduled Newsline set for July 18. 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.