Newsline for December 20, 2013

Quote of the week:“God with us. You. And me. That is the message of peace this Advent–that God, who embodies perfect love, chooses every minute to be fully present with us.”

— From Advent reflections in “Peacebuilder,” an e-mail newsletter from On Earth Peace. (Photo by Mandy Garcia)

The God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).

1) A passion for teaching God’s word: Interview with mission workers Carl and Roxane Hill

2) Brethren attend ECHO Caribbean conference in the DR, GFCF manager assesses situation of Haitian Dominicans

3) Dominican Republic court ruling from the international perspective

4) Brethren Academy issues updated course listing

5) Brethren Press announces curriculum resources for 2014

6) Feature: Deacon Ministry reminds churches to welcome new friends this holiday season

7) Brethren bits: Note on year-end donations, correction, remembering Larry Ulrich, Sarah Thompson to lead CPT, job openings at Material Resources  Bethany Seminary, South Sudan, registration deadlines, and much more.


A NOTE TO READERS: The next regular issue of Newsline will be sent out in two weeks, scheduled for Jan. 3, 2014, to allow for staff vacation time over Christmas.



1) A passion for teaching God’s word: Interview with mission workers Carl and Roxane Hill

By Zakariya Musa of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

Brief us about yourselves and your mission in Nigeria.

We started our missionary experience in late December of 2012. Roxane’s parents and grandparents had both been missionaries in Nigeria (Ralph and Flossie Royer, Red and Gladys Royer). Ralph had often said that we would be a good fit to teach at Kulp Bible College, but we always found reasons not to go. When the last of our children moved out of the house we decided to pursue the opportunity. Sight unseen, we boarded a plane and came to Nigeria.

Zakariya Musa
Roxane and Carl Hill, in a photo from Zakariya Musa of the “Sabon Haske” publication of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

Tell us what encouraged you to come to work especially in the northern states of Nigeria?

Both of us have always had a passion for teachings God’s word. To be honest we were not fully aware of the potential dangers that exist in northeast Nigeria. We never considered any other position in Nigeria, and have had peace about living in an area of conflict. We are careful, but not afraid. Many thanks to the leaders of EYN for their advice on travel and the provision of wonderful, capable drivers.

Was there anything that surprised you on your arrival?

Roxane grew up in Nigeria and had some idea of what conditions might be like. She was amazed at the number of people in the cities and by how little life has changed in the rural areas since she was here last. Carl, on the other hand, was just willing to give it a try. Carl’s biggest adjustment was in eating the food. You would not consider him a picky eater in the US. However, he was not ready for what he found in trying to live on African food. This is one of the surprises Carl has to share with anyone wanting to go on a foreign mission: be ready to either bring your own food with you or learn to live on what is there. After our summer break in the US, we brought numerous American staples with us so Carl has been much happier.

Can you give brief successes or difficulties you have encountered in your work in Nigeria?

We have enjoyed living among the staff and students on the Kulp Bible College campus. Our success can be summed up very easily. We have found the Nigerian people warm, friendly, and accepting of us. Getting along so well with everyone has been our biggest joy. This experience has allowed us to really live out our ministry verse, 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “To share not only the gospel but our lives as well.” We also had the opportunity and privilege to present a practical program on individual spiritual growth to the entire body of district secretaries (executives of EYN).The overall goal being that the secretaries would take the materials back to the local churches under their care. The participants received us well and the communication gaps were few. Speaking of communications, this has been one of the biggest challenges we have faced, not only the language but also some of the customs and unspoken protocol which is to be expected when doing foreign missions.

What would you advise Nigerian Brethren regarding ongoing persecution in some northern states?

Well, we can’t advise them on this matter. As American Christians we simply cannot relate to such danger associated with our faith. We can learn from their courage and unswerving faith, and look at them with admiration. Like the first Christians in Acts 4:29, we pray for boldness as we continue to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I know you have experienced problems in communication, limited traveling, weather, the state of emergency in northeastern Nigeria. Would you like to share your experiences with the entire Brethren?

There have been challenges and limitations during our stay, but when we look back they seem minor. The 105-degree temperatures between mid-February and mid-May were extremely difficult without air-conditioning. Our travel was somewhat limited but we were able to preach 15 times at 10 different churches. The leaders at EYN Headquarters took responsibility for our safety and we yielded to their recommendation for any travel. The state of emergency has made travel slower due to the additional military check points. Telephone and Internet services were suspended several times. Our family in America was concerned the first time, but they are aware of the situation and everyone in Nigeria has had to be flexible.

What would you like to do after your mission in Africa?

We are convinced that this intercultural experience, where we have been immersed in God’s word and learning to live simple lives, will lead us to planting a church for the Brethren in America. There are many urban areas that need the freshness and enthusiastic approach that God has been instilling in us, both for His people and His glory. We are reading everything we can get, and beginning to write up a proposal for church planting. We are trusting in God to lead us to the next opportunity.

What is your view on the partnership between EYN and the Church of the Brethren?

The relationship has changed over time from a father-child interaction to one of equal partnership. It would be great to see more interaction between the two organizations. We pray the partnership will continue to grow over time with Americans coming to Nigeria and Nigerians helping in America.

What is your view on having international workcamps in EYN with Church of the Brethren and Mission 21 participants?

It is still a great idea. The experience of participating in a work camp is priceless. A person’s eyes are really opened when you work together with others in another country. We hope that the workcamps could go both directions, with Nigerians working in America or Switzerland as well. Wouldn’t an exchange of summer service workers among all the organizations be great?

EYN is pushing to promote its hospitals. Would you recommend a medical personnel volunteer from any of the EYN partners?

Yes, we would love to see some medical volunteers come here. New facilities have been built but they are not being utilized. The EYN area is in great need of trained medical personnel–doctors, physician assistants, and midwives all could be utilized, even if only for two-to-four months at a time.

What would you like to add in general perspective?

We would highly recommend a short- or long-term assignment to those God is calling. The Church of the Brethren in America has a special place in its heart for Nigeria. The Nigerian people will inspire your faith and the slower pace will allow you more time to spend on your personal walk with God.

— Zakariya Musa is secretary of “Sabon Haske,” a publication of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

2) Brethren attend ECHO Caribbean conference in the DR, GFCF manager assesses situation of Haitian Dominicans

Photo by Jeff Boshart
Anastacia Bueno, Onelys Rivas, and Flora Furcal (from left) at the ECHO Caribbean conference held in the Dominican Republic. Not pictured but also in attendance were Ariel Rosario and Juan Carlos Reyes.

Brethren representatives from the Dominican Republic and the United States were part of an ECHO Caribbean conference this fall, including Jeff Boshart, manager of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF).

ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) is a non-profit, interdenominational Christian organization headquartered on a demonstration farm in North Ft. Myers, Fla., that provides resources for mission and agricultural workers in over 160 countries. The organization is dedicated to fighting world hunger through innovative ideas, information, agricultural training, and seeds, seeking to find agricultural solutions for families growing food under difficult conditions.

The ECHO Caribbean conference was a success on many levels, Boshart reported, but also a disappointment as Haitian Brethren leaders were not able to get visas to attend despite efforts on their behalf by him and others including Lorenzo Mota King, the executive director of Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas (Church World Service partner agency in the DR). In the end, the two Brethren delegates from Haiti–Jean Bily Telfort and Adias Docteur–were replaced by Dominican Brethren delegates.

The Dominican Brethren in attendance included Anastacia Bueno, Onelys Rivas, Flora Furcal, Ariel Rosario, and Juan Carlos Reyes.

Photo by Jeff Boshart
Onelys Rivas, a Dominican Brethren leader, gives morning devotions at the ECHO Caribbean conference.

“The ECHO conference allowed our DR Brethren to rub shoulders with university professors from the US and other countries, as well as hear presentations from Christian development agencies working in the DR, Haiti, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Africa,” Boshart said. “I made numerous contacts on behalf of the Haitian Brethren who could not come and will pass those along to them.”

Effects of recent ruling on Haitian Dominicans

The visa situation for Haitian church leaders who cannot enter the DR may be related to a recent court decision in the Dominican Republic that will strip people of Haitian descent of rights to stay in the country. A significant number of Dominican Brethren are of Haitian descent and leaders in the church there are in process of putting the situation on their agenda, Boshart reported.

Anastacia Bueno, a Dominican Brethren church leader who is of Haitian descent, and a former moderator of Iglesia de los Hermanos (the Dominican Church of the Brethren) was one of the Brethren representatives to the ECHO conference. During his visit to the DR, Boshart also spent an hour visiting in her home in San Luis.

During the visit, he had a chance to find out about the effects of the court decision on daily life in the DR.  “This is still a situation in flux so things could easily change in the next few months,” he said. “The current issue is complicated by several factors that aren’t entirely obvious at first glance. The obvious things are the anti-Haitian feelings in Dominican society that are nearly 200 years old, as well as the present presence of many illegal Haitian residents in the DR.
“The Brethren in Sabana Torsa (one of the bateys east of the capital) are reporting that a Catholic priest has been banned from the area by the government for his outspoken opposition to the recent ruling and treatment of Dominicans of Haitian descent. Check points are on the alert to turn him away if he shows his face,” Boshart added.

The Organization of American States, among others, are pressuring the DR government to change its ruling, Boshart reported. The decision impacts all children of foreigners born in the DR since 1929, and will reclassify them as “in transit” on their government documents, and likely will have an impact on at least three, if not four or more, generations of Haitian Dominicans. “Many have ancestors who came to the DR legally as contract workers to work in the sugar industry for companies ranging from Dominican to European to American-owned companies,” Boshart said. Up until now, they been able to carry Dominican identity cards, attend Dominican schools, vote in Dominican elections, and pay Dominican taxes.

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

3) Dominican Republic court ruling from the international perspective

By Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations

The Sept. 25 Dominican Republic court ruling denies Dominican nationality to children of undocumented migrants who have been born or registered in the country after 1929 and who do not have at least one parent of Dominican blood. This comes under a 2010 constitutional clause declaring these people to be either in the country illegally or in transit.

This court ruling has caused many to speak out in concern across the Americas, the Caribbean, and the international community, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights based in Geneva, Switzerland. Demonstrations against the court ruling have been held in New York, which has a large population of Haitian and Dominican residents.

The Church of the Brethren has concerns about the new law, expressed particularly through the Global Mission and Service office headed by Jay Wittmeyer, because the ruling will disproportionately affect brothers and sisters of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. I expressed the church’s concern about the court ruling at the Oct. 21 New York NGO briefing with the assistant secretary general for Human Rights and wrote a brief summary on the ruling based on reports and documents available from the Office of the High Commissioner.

First it should be noted that the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination, which is one of the oldest of the UN treaty bodies, has declared that no nation is free of racial discrimination. As such we are not to judge the Dominican Republic any less or more harshly than our own country or any other country.

The ruling in the DR infringes on other international covenants and agreements as well as the one on racial discrimination including the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Rights of the Child; and most glaringly the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990). That any country may not have signed a United Nations agreement does not make their noncompliance valid.

The population of the Dominican Republic is around 10 million, of whom it is estimated about 275,000 thousands are of Haitian descent and are affected by the court ruling. The country’s racial mix is overwhelmingly of African and European background. According to a report from April of this year, the racial and structural denial of the country’s African origin in its population is a factor limiting measures to overcome racial discrimination, and there appear to be attempts to not allow people to identify themselves as Black. The report requested the government to “amend their electoral law to enable Dominicans to identify themselves as negro, mulatto.” The report further notes that terms such as “indio-claro (light skinned Indian) and indio-oscuro (dark skinned Indian) fail to reflect the ethnic situation in the country and renders invisible the dark skinned population of African descent.”

It is not by chance or arbitrary that “after 1929” was chosen as the year persons born of Haitian parentage should be denied citizenship. The bulk of Haitian migrants to the DR came to the sugar plantations in the early part of the last century. Most would be dead by now, but declaring their offspring noncitizens would be another means to rid the country of persons born of Haitian origin and by extension African descent.

Dec. 18 was the United Nations International Migrant Day. A joint commemoration statement on the plight of migrants, that would include those of Haitian descent in the DR, was issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Francois Crepeau; the chair of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant workers and their Families, Abdelhamid El Jamni; and the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Felipe Gonzales. They once again reminded the world that “migrants are first and foremost human beings with human rights.” Migrants “cannot be perceived or portrayed only as agents for economic development” nor “helpless victims in need of rescue and/or criminal frauds.”

Let us continue to pray and hope that the government and people of the Dominican Republic embrace their entire cultural heritage as we give support to our brothers and sisters of Haitian origin. We will rejoice on the day that the Dominicans recognize the African contribution to their country, and allow their citizens the freedom to choose their racial and cultural identity without prejudice.

— Doris Abdullah of Brooklyn, N.Y., is the Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations and chair of the UN NGOs’ Human Rights Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.

4) Brethren Academy issues updated course listing

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership has issued an updated listing of courses to be offered. Courses are open to Training in Ministry (TRIM) students, pastors who may earn 2 continuing education units per course, and all interested persons.

The academy staff note that “while we continue to accept students beyond the registration deadline, on that date we determine whether we have enough students to offer a course. Many courses have required pre-course readings, so students need to be sure to allow enough time to complete those. Please do not purchase texts or make travel plans until the registration deadline is passed, and you receive a course confirmation.”

Register for courses noted as “SVMC” through the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center at SVMC@etown.edu or 717-361-1450. For all other courses listed go to the Brethren Academy website at www.bethanyseminary.edu/academy .

Jan 21-24, 2014: “The Reality of the Unseen: An Overview of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism” taught by Michael Hostetter at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Registration deadline: Dec. 20.

Jan. 27-March 21, 2014: “Introduction to Old Testament,” an online course taught by Craig Gandy. Registration deadline: Dec. 16.

March 7-8, 21-22, 2014: “History of the Church of the Brethren” taught by Jeff Bach at the Young Center, Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. SVMC. Registration deadline: March 1.

April 21-June 15, 2014: “Ministry with Children,” an online course taught by Rhonda Pittman Gingrich. Registration deadline: March 17.

May 14-17, 2014: “Rock the Church, Rethinking Church Renewal” at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., in conjunction with the Church Planting Conference.

July 1-2, 2014: Annual Conference Directed Independent Study Unit with Dr. Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology, to take place onsite in Columbus, Ohio, in conjunction with the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The instructor is Chris Bowman. Registration deadline: June 2.

Summer 2014: “Church of the Brethren Polity” to be taught at the Young Center, Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. SVMC.

Fall 2014: “Luke-Acts and the Birth of the Church” (tentative title), an online course taught by Matthew Boersma.

5) Brethren Press announces curriculum resources for 2014

Brethren Press has announced curriculum resources for the coming year. In the spring, the Christian education curriculum Gather ’Round is offered for children and youth classes, and A Guide for Biblical Studies for adult classes and small group Bible studies. In the summer, Gather ’Round offers a quarter for multi-age groups of children and for youth, and a Vacation Bible School package is available. In the fall, Brethren Press and MennoMedia will roll out Shine: Living in God’s Light, the successor curriculum to Gather ’Round.

Spring curriculum

Gather ’Round: “Living in the Light: Stories from John” is the theme for spring, covering Sundays from March 2 -May 25. Included are stories for Lent and Easter such as Jesus raising Lazarus, Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, his resurrection appearances to Mary Magdalene and the disciples, and his teachings in the latter part of John. Gather ’Round is for preschool, primary, middler, youth.

A Guide for Biblical Studies: “Jesus’ Fulfillment of Scripture” is the spring theme for this Bible study for adult groups. The quarter is written by Estella Horning and explores connections between Jesus and the Hebrew scriptures. Cost is $4.25 or $7.35 for large print, plus shipping and handling.

Summer curriculum

Vacation Bible School: Give and Receive God’s Great Love (MennoMedia) is the Vacation Bible School curriculum available from Brethren Press for 2014. It highlights Bible stories about God’s people who showed hospitality and welcome to others, inviting children to learn about God who welcomes each one of us. The curriculum is organized around five stories and is adaptable to a traditional daily program, or to a midweek or club plan. Stories are drawn from Genesis, 1 Samuel, Luke, and Acts. The curriculum offers worship resources, games, crafts, and a drama of each story. The boxed kit includes everything needed for planning and preparation. All of the items in the boxed set are also available to order separately. $159.99 for the starter kit, with churches able to order additional materials through Brethren Press customer service.

Gather ‘Round: Stories of God’s People, the summer quarter of Gather ’Round, is a resource for multiage groups (grades K-5), preschool (ages 3-4, with tips for 2s), and youth (grades 6-12). Lessons cover the Sundays of June 1-Aug. 24. Stories focus on people around Jesus–Matthew, Mary and Martha, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, Peter and John–and key leaders in the early church–Paul and Ananias, Barnabus, Philip and the Ethiopian, Lydia, Aquila, Priscilla. The list of summer sessions is at www.gatherround.org .

Fall curriculum

Shine: Living in God’s Light: Development of a new Sunday school curriculum called Shine is underway by Brethren Press and MennoMedia. Shine is a successor curriculum to the current Gather ’Round. The first quarter of Shine: Living in God’s Light, will be available for use this fall. “We are pleased to offer our congregations a user-friendly, enriching curriculum that grows out of our distinct beliefs as Brethren and Mennonites,” said Wendy McFadden, publisher of Brethren Press. Foundational scriptures include Isaiah 9:2 and Matthew 5:14-16. For children age three through grade eight, Shine is based on a three-year overview of the Bible with a separate Bible outline for early childhood. Sessions include an emphasis on teaching prayer and other spiritual practices, and will highlight peace themes. A multi-age resource will serve churches with small numbers of children. See http://shinecurriculum.com .

Order curriculum from Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 or www.brethrenpress.com .

6) Feature: Deacon Ministry reminds churches to welcome new friends this holiday season

By Donna Kline

December Deacon Update: Making Friends

Things were a little sparse in the primary Sunday school class the weekend after Thanksgiving. Only two little girls were there, one of them a visitor. Elbow-deep in the glitter and glue of the construction paper Advent wreathes they were making, the visiting kindergartner smiled at the other and said, “Wanna make friends?”

In another congregation, I’m told, a couple had been regularly attending worship as well as the fellowship time that follows, and were dismayed that members of the congregation seemed to only be interested in talking to each other. Finally one Sunday another couple approached them, and a good conversation began. Within a few minutes, though, the couples realized that they were both visitors, neither of which had been welcomed by anyone from the congregation: there was no evidence that anyone there wanted to “make friends.”

The second story isn’t at all unusual, and is in fact human nature–we gravitate to those with whom we are most comfortable. But isn’t this just the opposite of what Jesus taught us? Are we not to seek out those who themselves are seeking the hope found in the good news of the Gospel story? Certainly when they seek us out the least we can do is welcome them!

Advent is a time when more visitors join our services than any other time of year. In the days of Advent remaining, consider offering the gift of friendship to those visiting your congregation whose faces aren’t familiar to you. Think of people in your life who may not do well at “making friends” and invite them to a service. It may be the best gift you can give–to them and to yourself.

“Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers” (Romans 12:13).

— Donna Kline is director of the Church of the Brethren Deacon Ministry, and a member of the Congregational Life Ministries staff.

7) Brethren bits

— A note from the Finance Office: Donations to support Church of the Brethren denominational ministries must be postmarked no later than Dec. 31, 2013, and received by Jan. 13, 2014, to be credited to the 2013 tax year. Mail to Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. Donations also can be made online at www.brethren.org/give before year end. The Church of the Brethren staff extend thanks for the financial support from congregations and individual members across the denomination that make these ministries possible.

— Correction: The “save the date” note in the last Newsline gave an incorrect date for the Goodbye Still Night concert in North Manchester, Ind. The correct date is April 26, 2014, for the concert featuring Brethren musicians including Andy and Terry Murray, Mutual Kumquat, Shawn Kirchner and Ryan Harrison, and Kim Shahbazian.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Ulrich
Larry Ulrich

— Remembrance: Larry K. Ulrich, 72, a Brethren leader in ecumenical circles and the denomination’s representative on the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches, passed away Dec. 7. In January he was named to the Church of the Brethren study committee on “The Church of the Brethren and Ecumenism in the 21st Century.” Ulrich was an ordained minister, clinical pastoral educator, and director of chaplaincy services and medical ethicist in Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago, Cook County Hospital, and University of Chicago Hospitals. From 1979-84 he was dean of Supervised Ministry and Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at the Vincentian seminary, DeAndreis Institute of Theology, in Lemont, Ill., perhaps the first Protestant dean in a Roman Catholic seminary. He was a leader in the Chicago area in promoting hospice care for the dying. At the 1969 Annual Conference he was instrumental in a resolution that created the Fund for the Americas for racism education and direct assistance to minorities, after having participated in civil rights activities in Louisiana and Chicago while at seminary. From 1972-76 he chaired the Annual Conference Committee on Health and Welfare relating to the 22 hospitals and retirement communities of the Church of the Brethren at the time. On behalf of the denomination, he testified to the US House Ways and Means Committee in support of a “comprehensive and accessible” national health insurance (reported by “Messenger” in Oct. 1974). From 1975-83 he was vice-president and a director of the Brethren Health Education Foundation, and in 1977-79 chaired the Board of Trustees of Bethany Hospital in Chicago after being on the board since 1974. Most recently, he represented the church’s Illinois and Wisconsin District on the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, which was awarded the Chicago Theological Union’s prestigious “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” award in 2004. In his role with the National Council of Churches, he promoted the World Interfaith Harmony Week to Brethren as “an opportunity to remember that we are called to be the best believers we can be within our Christian faith tradition, and encourage followers in other religions to be the best believers they can be…. Loving believers in other faith heritages isn’t easy, but it’s what God’s Living Spirit calls us to.” In 2012 he was designated a Friend of the Muslim Educational Cultural Center of America for helping facilitate the building of mosques in western suburbs of Chicago against opposition. He was a member at York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., and a 35-year resident of the interracial York Center Community Cooperative. He was born in 1941 in Greencastle, Ind., the only child of Kenneth and Ruth Ulrich. He held degrees from Manchester College, Bethany Theological Seminary, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, and Chicago Theological Seminary. He spent some years as a pastor in Maryland, Indiana, and Illinois, and also was a family therapist and pastoral counselor. He is survived by his wife Nancy Studebaker Ulrich; children Michael (Emily), Andrew Ulrich, and Joel Krogstad (Faith); and grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Jan. 11, 2014, at 3 p.m. at the York Center Church. Memorials are received to York Center Church and the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.

Christian Peacemaker Teams
Sarah Thompson

— Sarah Thompson has been appointed executive director of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an organization that was begun with help from the peace churches including the Church of the Brethren. Thompson starts in the position in January 2014. She served on CPT’s Steering Committee 2010-12 and has worked for the past year as CPT’s outreach coordinator. Her church involvements include six years of volunteer work as the North American representative to Mennonite World Conference’s Youth and Young Adult Executive Committee and Global Youth Summit planning group, as well as service with Mennonite Central Committee in Jerusalem, Washington, D.C., and her hometown of Elkhart, Ind. She holds a degree from Spelman College in Comparative Women’s Studies and International Studies with a minor in Spanish, and a master of divinity degree from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. For more go to www.cpt.org .

— The Church of the Brethren seeks an office assistant for Material Resources, a full-time position located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Responsibilities include facilitating Church World Service kit pickups; preparation of domestic and overseas shipments and maintaining documentation and reports; knowledge of transportation related regulations and compliance; working with outside trucking firms; maintaining driver logs and other driver files; auditing monthly reports, bills, and invoices related to trucks, transportation, and drivers; customer service; and daily collaboration with office manager and warehouse staff. The preferred candidate will be well organized, skilled at creating and maintaining spreadsheets and recordkeeping, able to effectively manage multiple simultaneous tasks, able to work collaboratively in a team environment, comfortable making suggestions and process improvements, with a flexible and positive attitude. A high school diploma or the equivalent, and competency in Microsoft Office Outlook, Word, and Excel are required. Applications will be received and reviewed until the position is filled. Request an application packet and job description from the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; humanresources@brethren.org .

— Bethany Theological Seminary, a graduate school of the Church of the Brethren located in Richmond, Ind., seeks a part-time project director with education and experience in financial planning and program implementation to fulfill the aims of a grant received from Lilly Endowment Inc. This appointment will be renewed annually for up to three years. The grant will fund research to identify the unique financial challenges for Bethany students in the local and distance programs and to design and implement ways Bethany can better prepare and support students and alumni/ae to face the economic challenges of pastoral ministry. Duties will include overseeing the collection of new data outlined in the grant narrative; presenting research findings to Bethany staff and faculty (and others, as needed); introducing students to new ideas about “simple living”; connecting students with career counseling resources; increasing student awareness of available outside financial aid and sources of funding for seminary; exploring bivocational ministry preparation at Bethany and throughout the denomination; facilitating financial education for Bethany staff and faculty; establishing new programs to strengthen the financial literacy of students; informing alumni/ae of financial stewardship resources available to them; compiling grant reports; assessing grant initiatives. Candidates should have strong organizational abilities, good interpersonal skills, and excellent financial expertise. A bachelor’s degree is required. Additional education and familiarity with the values of the Church of the Brethren is preferred. Copies of the grant can be requested from Brenda Reish at reishbr@bethanyseminary.edu . Mail a letter of interest and resume to Project Director Search, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374 or projectdirectorsearch@bethanyseminary.edu . The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2014, or until the position is filled. Bethany Seminary does not discriminate in employment opportunities or practices on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law. Find this full announcement online at www.bethanyseminary.edu/news/lillysearch .

— “We’re watching the situation” in South Sudan following an outbreak of violence there, said Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer. Church of the Brethren staff in South Sudan are not working in the affected areas and are not in immediate danger, he said. Athanasus Ungang and Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker Jocelyn Snyder are working in Torit, in the eastern part of the country, and BVS volunteer Jillian Foerster has completed her work in Yei in the southwest of the country and has returned home to the United States. Violence has erupted in South Sudan’s capital city Juba this week, with varying statements by political leaders and others blaming an alleged coup linked to the recent deposing of the country’s vice president, and to ethnic tensions between the Dinka and Nuer. Thousands have fled the Juba area, according to news reports, although a United Nations statement yesterday said peace seemed to be returning to the capital city. In the meantime, fighting also broke out in the city of Bor in Jonglei State. “We ask for special prayer for South Sudan,” Wittmeyer said. “We’re watching the situation and continue to stay in contact with staff.”

— Registration for the 2014 Clergy Women’s Retreat closes at 4:30 p.m. (central time) today, Dec. 20. “We have 42 participants registered so there is still room for several more,” reports Mary Jo Flory-Steury in a Facebook post encouraging clergy women to participate. “If you haven’t registered yet and have been pondering the possibility of joining us please come. We will be blessed by your presence and we trust you will be blessed by your participation.” The retreat takes place Monday, Jan. 13, through Thursday, Jan. 16, at Serra Retreat Center in Malibu, Calif. To register and for more information go to www.brethren.org/ministry .

— “Plan your registration party now!” say the NYC coordinators. Jan. 3, 2014, 7 p.m. (central) is opening time for online registration for the 2014 National Youth Conference, to be held in Fort Collins, Colo., on July 19-24. Go to www.brethren.org/yya/nyc .

— “As you look for last-minute gifts for Christmas, consider GFCF alternative giving options,” invites manager Jeff Boshart. Global Food Crisis Fund gifts are listed at https://secure2.convio.net/cob/site/Ecommerce;jsessionid=EF8E80E63481265AC69F31F979827C0C.app263b?store_id=2141 . The latest newsletter from the Global Food Crisis Fund offers stories from community gardening, animal raising in Honduras, crop success in North Korea, and ministry with the Twa (pygmies) in Rwanda: www.brethren.org/gfcf/stories/gfcf-e-news-2014-winter.pdf . Information about this Church of the Brethren fund that invests in small-scale economic development and supports efforts to improve diet and health practices, soil conservation, and awareness-raising and advocacy on hunger issues, is at www.brethren.org/gfcf .

— A “3rd Thursday Middle East Action Alert” from the denomination’s Office of Public Witness highlights the problem of restrictions on movement for Palestinians in Israel. Referencing Psalm 122:6-9, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.’ For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, ‘Peace be within you” (NIV), the alert was a part of the ecumenical advocacy community’s Third Thursdays for Israel-Palestine initiative. “Over the next few days,” it noted, “thousands of visitors from around the world will begin arriving in Bethlehem for the celebration of Christmas…. However, in the Bethlehem District after the visitors have left and the Christmas decorations have been taken down, a stark reality will surface. The buses used to ferry foreign guests to and from the city will have passed easily through the steel gates in the wall that separates Jerusalem from Bethlehem, and Christmas visitors will have felt little impact from the closure imposed over the city. For the Palestinians that remain, however, movement into and out of the city remains restricted and those Palestinians given permission to move between Jerusalem and Bethlehem are forced to wait in line for hours as they wait to pass through crowded tunnels and turnstiles that are contained in the terminal hidden just out of sight of the tourists.” The Office of Public Witness asked for help from church members to contact representatives in Congress urging US policy toward Israel and Palestine to “support freedom, not restriction.” The alert also asked for prayer: “As we celebrate the arrival of our Lord to the town of Bethlehem, take time to pray and reflect for the current situation in his birthplace.” Find the full Action Alert online at www.brethren.org/bethlehem . Contact the public witness ministries of the Church of the Brethren at nhosler@brethren.org or 717-333-1649.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
A task team has begun the process of creating a new ministers manual for the Church of the Brethren. The group met at the General Offices this week, and plans to offer an insight session at the 2014 Annual Conference to share more information and gain input for the new book.

 

— A task team has begun the process of creating a new ministers manual for the Church of the Brethren. The group is led by the Ministry Office and associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury, and includes Dana Cassell, Laura Stone, Paul Roth, Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm, Becky Rhodes, Josh Brockway, and Wendy McFadden. The task team had its first meeting in August and a conference call in October. At a meeting this week at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, the group began to shape the purpose and draft an outline for the book. The book will be several years in the making, and is anticipated to serve the denomination as ministry changes in the 21st century. The process of creating it will include a future call for submissions of worship and other resources. The task team will provide more information and seek input at an insight session at the 2014 Annual Conference.

— A short video invitation to the 2014 Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, on July 2-6 is posted at www.brethren.org/ac . Created by Brethren videographer David Sollenberger, it includes interviews with Conference-goers who have enjoyed the experience of the denomination’s annual meeting and with moderator Nancy Heishman on the theme “Live as Courageous Disciples” taken from Philippians, and highlights the range of activities planned for families and children as well as the culminating Sunday morning worship on the theme “Rejoice in the Lord.”

— Danville Church of the Brethren near Rawlings, Md., presents its annual Living Christmas today, Dec. 20, and Saturday, Dec. 21, from 6-9 p.m. at the Narrow Gate Farm on Route 220. Visitors will walk along a lighted path from station to station to witness and hear the miracle of the Christmas story. “Everyone welcome,” said an announcement in the “Mineral Daily News.”

— Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren received praise from the “Frederick News Post” for an innovative interactive “pageant” that “captured the essence of the Christmas story Saturday in a more significant way than sitting in a pew and watching a play,” the newspaper said. The event titled “Search for the Christ Child” transformed the church building into ancient Bethlehem, and visitors were led on a half-hour guided tour through the story of the first Christmas. The newspaper quoted one visitor as saying: “I’ve been to many Christmas pageants, but nothing like this. It was intellectual–a tool you walked through, not sitting in a church watching.” The event was a success despite being held on a day when several inches of snow fell in the area. Read more at www.fredericknewspost.com/your_life/life_news_collection/religion/interactive-pageant-brings-new-life-to-nativity-play/article_46c7d81b-e92a-534e-a268-5a8b1681e33d.html?TNNoMobile

— Western Pennsylvania District is extending “a special thanks to all who supported the District Auction that was held at Camp Harmony on Nov. 2, with their prayers, donations and purchases.” To date, without expenses, $7,892 has been received for district ministry, reported the district newsletter. Camp scholarships will be given to first place and second place churches that raised the most funds. Maple Spring Church of the Brethren took first place raising $1,950. Scalp Level Church of the Brethren took second place raising $697.50.

— Also in the Western Pennsylvania District newsletter: A call for support for relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The district will be contributing $5,000 from its
Disaster Fund to the Brethren Disaster Ministries effort, and is calling on congregations and members to contribute as well.

— Illinois and Wisconsin District has announced a theme for the year 2014: “Abide in the Vine, Abide in My Love” (John 15:1-17). This will be the theme also for the district conference next year, led by moderator Stan Rodabaugh. The theme logo was designed by Debbie Noffsinger.

— The Christmas Tree of Stars program at the Church of the Brethren Home in Windber, Pa., is in its 30th year. Donations to help decorate the tree honor or memorialize a loved one or friend, and help provide benevolent care for residents.

— The board of Pinecrest Manor, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill., has established a $1,000 scholarship in honor of Jim Renz, a 49-year board member who died in May. The scholarship is to be awarded in the spring to a graduating high school senior from Oregon High School or a student who is a member of any Church of the Brethren congregation in the northern district of Illinois-Wisconsin District, said the district newsletter. The scholarship is to focus on a future interest in health care, social work, or pastoral care. Contact Ferol Labash of Pinecrest Manor, 815-734-4103.

— The Camp Harmony Reunion Dinner has been announced for Dec. 30, at 6 p.m. The camp in Hooversville, Pa., is holding a reunion dinner in place of an appreciation dinner at the end of the year said an announcement that invited: “Come join camp staff, volunteers, and friends from Camp Harmony over the years.” Cost is $10 per person and the deadline to register is Dec. 23. Contact harmony@campharmony.org or 814-798-5885.

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College was awarded a $531,885 grant by the National Science Foundation to support the Engineering Practices with Impact Cohort (EPIC) Scholarship for High Achieving Women in Engineering program. A release from the school reported that this selective scholarship specifically is offered to academically talented women who have interest in the college’s engineering program. “The college’s EPIC scholarship program falls in line with the STEM Educate to Innovate initiative promoted by the Barack Obama administration this spring. The initiative intends to provide students at all levels of education in fields of study in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as a means to improve the nation’s competitiveness in these areas,” said the release. Elizabethtown’s EPIC scholarship program is under the direction of Sara A. Atwood, assistant professor of engineering and physics, and Kurt M. DeGoede, professor of engineering and physics, and serves up to four scholars per year. Each receive up to $10,000 per year for all four years at Elizabethtown, with the total amount based on financial need. Each EPIC scholar will have expanded opportunities for Signature Learning Experiences and professional mentoring from STEM employers and graduate programs, will reside on campus in the Partners In Engineering Living/Learning Community, and will have fully funded summer research opportunities and access to Elizabethtown’s Engineering Co-op program. To qualify for the scholarship, a student must maintain a 2.75 grade point average. Application deadline for the EPIC scholarship is Feb. 1. Go to www.etown.edu/depts/physics-engineering/epic-scholarship.aspx .

— Manchester University president Jo Young Switzer has received the 2013 Chief Executive Leadership Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, reports a release from the university in North Manchester, Ind. She received the honor for “outstanding efforts in promoting and supporting education and institutional advancement. As the first female president of the 125-year-old school, Switzer has boldly led Manchester through transformational change, praised CASE,” according to the release. CASE recognized Switzer’s ability and conviction in actively supporting advancement and fundraising for the university, inspiring others to Manchester’s vision, establishing a positive image for Manchester while leading it to higher levels of success, increasing Manchester’s stature, and encouraging innovation and risk-taking among employees. Learn more about Manchester University at www.manchester.edu.

— Manchester University has been in the news for a statement from the President’s Cabinet that the university will remain neutral on a proposed amendment to the Indiana state constitution that would ban gay marriage and civil unions. Today “The Journal Gazette” of Fort Wayne reported on a petition opposing that decision by Manchester students, staff, faculty, and alumni, and an upcoming protest fast by some students. The cabinet’s statement in November explained that the university has not historically taken positions on political issues. Today’s newspaper article is at http://journalgazette.net/article/20131220/LOCAL04/312209960/1002/LOCAL .

— A Facebook post from Mutual Kumquat announces that “Was It You” co-written by Church of the Brethren musicians Seth Hendricks and Chris Good of Mutual Kumquat, and performed by Jacob Jolliff with “his other band” Joy Kills Sorrow, has been honored on the National Public Radio (NPR) Music and Folk Alley listing of best music of 2013. Find NPR’s “Best Music of 2013” at www.npr.org/blogs/bestmusic2013/2013/12/12/248799480/heavy-rotation-public-radios-songs-of-2013 . Joy Kills Sorrow made its NPR Mountain Stage debut this year, listen to the recording online at www.npr.org/2011/04/04/135129500/joy-kills-sorrow-on-mountain-stage .


Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jan Fischer Bachman, Chris Douglas, Jim Chinworth, Elizabeth Harvey, Jeri S. Kornegay, Marie Willoughby, Ed Woolf, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is planned for Jan. 3, 2014. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. Newsline appears every other week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences go to www.brethren.org/newsline.