Newsline for June 24, 2015

Photo by Glenn Riegel

1) Junior high conference helps youth address change, while keeping a focus on God
2) Lightsabers and communicating with junior highs: An interview with Bethany dean Steve Schweitzer
3) Work/learning group makes trip to South Sudan

PERSONNEL
4) Fahrney-Keedy announces appointment of Stephen Coetzee as president/CEO

5) Brethren bits: EYN Women’s Choir and BEST begin tour and get media coverage, Office of Public Witness holds lunch with choir, BHLA interns, new warehouse assistant for BSC, Beacon Heights pastor in NY Times, On Earth Peace work for racial justice, more


Quote of the week:

“America does not have a monopoly on racism. But what makes its racism so lethal is the ease with which people can acquire guns. While the new conversation around race will mean the political response to the fact of this attack will be different, the stale conversation around gun control means the legislative response to the nature of this attack will remain the same. Nothing will happen…. For the parishioners of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston nothing will ever be the same again. And for those who have the power to prevent it happening again, nothing will change.”

— Gary Younge, writing in London’s “Guardian” newspaper about the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17. Find the full piece at www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/18/charleston-church-shooting-gun-control-racism-killing-black-people-us .


1) Junior high conference helps youth address change, while keeping a focus on God

Photo by Glenn Riegel
Junior high youth gather at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania for the 2015 National Junior High Conference.

By Josh Harbeck

An acorn. Small, ordinary, even insignificant. Yet that small seed transforms into a massive, rooted, solid oak tree.

That transformation was the metaphor for change used by the organizers of the 2015 National Junior High Conference held June 19-21 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. The message came through clearly.

In total, 395 youth, advisors, and staff attended the conference and participated in workshops, recreation times, and even a carnival while also sharing meals and worship together.

Theme guides youth through change

The worship sessions each built upon the metaphor of transformation. The theme from the weekend was based on Romans 12:1-2, which, in the Message version, states, “Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering.” In addition, the youth were charged to not allow themselves to “become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

Organizers of the event, including director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry Becky Ullom Naugle, wanted to acknowledge the changes junior high youth go through and remind them to keep their focus on God.

“We were thinking about different images for change, and the acorn starts so small and so insignificant, but it turns in to this mighty oak tree,” she said. “And we thought that could help the kids see long term. It’s not about how you look or what you have. God’s looking at other things.”

Kristen Hoffman, coordinator of National Junior High Conference and a Brethren Volunteer Service worker, said she wanted the students to feel energized. “We wanted to focus on their gifts and talents and have them fueled by that and ready to go back to their junior highs,” she said.

Preachers share personal stories, challenges

That energizing process began with the opening worship service. Lauren Seganos, a seminarian at the Memorial Church of Harvard University and member of Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa., had the first opportunity to address the attendees, and she shared a personal story about her time in junior and senior high.

She talked about how much she enjoyed singing and performing and how she would audition for parts in musicals and solos in choir. However, another classmate usually earned those leads and solos. Seganos said she became so discouraged, she turned down an opportunity to sing at a coffee house hosted by her high school during her senior year.

She told the crowd that today, she can look back and see her focus was in trying to be the best rather than accepting the talents and strengths she did have. “We are all made in God’s image,” she said during her message, “but sometimes it’s hard to remember that.”

Putting unrealistic expectations on ourselves is a quick way to lose focus. “We’re in a culture where everyone needs to be the best at everything, and it’s worse today than when I was a child,” she said. “I think it’s important to not focus on being the best necessarily, but focus on what brings you joy because when we’re doing something that comes from our heart, that pleases God.”

Seganos said she was excited when contacted by the conference organizers. “They explained to me the vision for the weekend, with the image of the acorn and how it ties in,” she said. “I love the scripture passage; I actually have a poster of that up on my wall, that verse in the Message translation, and I thought it was so neat that that was the verse they asked me to preach on.”

On Saturday morning the transformation metaphor was expanded when Bethany Theological Seminary academic dean Steve Schweitzer talked about filters. He began by showing what different pictures looked like with different filters, such as different color filters, simple back and white, or even a negative filter. He then talked about the filters through which we see ourselves, or how others see us, or how God sees us. His theme was identity, an important topic for junior high youth.

“This is an age in which the answer to the question about knowing who you are can change every day,” he said. “We have to recognize that God sees us as no one else can and to know that God knows who we are and who we will become, so even when we screw up and get it wrong, God is there to call us into being that which God sees in us.”

Amy Gall Ritchie, a former Church of the Brethren pastor who now works with students at Bethany Seminary, also used pictures and images as part of her message during Saturday night’s worship service. She showed pictures of trees that grew in prevailing winds, trees that have grown more horizontally than vertically. She explained how while we should grow vertically, stretching to God, the prevailing winds of peer pressure can cause any of us to change direction.

She related a powerful story about peer pressure, describing how a group of friends organized a trip to the mall and while there, devised a plan to ditch one person in the group. Knowing what she was doing was wrong, she went ahead with her friends. The plan worked.

Acknowledging her guilt in making a bad choice, she had advice for those in worship that night: “We are going to make bad choices,” she said, “but there is always the next choice. We do not have to carry around our bad choices like a chain of punishment.”

Realizing those next-choice opportunities is the key to avoiding bad choices in the future, not to mention the guilt that comes with them. “If we get discouraged and give up, then we’re in that unproductive place of shame and guilt again,” she said. “And honestly, if I’m going to put my energy into something, I want to put it into goodness.”

Pacific Southwest District moderator Eric Bishop gave the message closing the conference on Sunday morning, building on what previous speakers had said. He challenged the youth to keep in mind what they had heard over the weekend, and challenged the adults as well.

“Yours has to be the just generation,” he told the youth. “We are failing and falling. Each generation, we hope the next will be the change we want and need. If we are going to change, we must help show you how.”

He talked about the mistake some people make in their underestimating of junior high youth. “We tell the youth, ‘You’re the future, but [you have to] wait.’ But I think they are not the future; they are a part of the church now. We need to bring them in and listen to them,” he said.

Workshops include Charleston discussion

Between worship sessions, youth and advisors alike had opportunities to unwind or get wound up. Saturday afternoon featured opportunities for sports and recreation, utilizing Elizabethtown’s facilities for kickball, volleyball, and Ultimate Frisbee.

Saturday’s schedule also featured two sessions of workshops, where youth could learn about a wide variety of topics including what Brethren volunteers are doing in Nigeria, how pop culture relates to faith, how not to be a jerk, among many others.

Organizers also saw an opportunity for discussion with the tragic shooting in South Carolina. Bishop offered to facilitate a talk specifically about what happened in Charleston, and also more generally about violence and race. He said it was a good chance to discuss some important topics. “It was primarily advisors, but those are the people who help influence the youth,” he said. “It’s interesting because there was a point where I said, ‘OK, we’ve been here an hour, so you’re welcome to come and go as you need,’ but no one moved.”

All of the discussions and activities took place in large part because of the efforts of the steering committee, which included Dave Miller, Michelle Gibbel, Eric Landram, and Jennifer Jensen. “Anytime at conference when something needed to happen they were always the first ones who said they’d do it,” Hoffman said. That included the Saturday night carnival, featuring activity booths from Brethren Volunteer Service, Global Mission and Service, Bethany Seminary, and McPherson College.

Seth Hendricks led the musical portion of worship, including praise songs and an original work based on the conference’s theme.

All of the activities and fellowship made for a positive experience.

“It’s been a good and healthy place for kids to be over the weekend,” Ullom Naugle said.

— Josh Harbeck is a high school English teacher and member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., where he serves as a junior high teacher.

Glenn Riegel, a photographer and member of Little Swatara Church of the Brethren in Bethel, Pa., has posted albums from the National Junior High Conference at
www.facebook.com/glenn.riegel/media_set?set=a.10206911494290541.1073741846.1373319087&type=3 .

2) Lightsabers and communicating with junior highs: An interview with Bethany dean Steve Schweitzer

Photo by Glenn Riegel
Bethany Seminary dean Steve Schweitzer speaks at 2015 National Junior High Conference

By Josh Harbeck

When pondering the best tools to use to communicate with junior high youth, lightsabers may not appear on the top of the list. However, according to Bethany Theological Seminary academic dean and professor Steve Schweitzer, they may have their place.

Schweitzer is teaching a new course at Bethany called “Science Fiction and Theology,” and he brought some of the ideas discussed in that class to a workshop at the National Junior High Conference held June 19-21 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.

Schweitzer showed clips from the Star Wars and Star Trek movie and television franchises, along with clips from various episodes of the BBC television show “Dr. Who.” Each of these clips had to do with faith, humanity, relationships, and concepts of God.

Why bring topics from a college course to a junior high conference? For Schweitzer, the answer is simple. “This is my favorite age group. I love junior high,” he said. “They’re honest, they ask good questions, and they don’t know yet that those aren’t the questions you’re supposed to ask. There’s a blunt honesty about life that makes you smile.”

Junior high is an important time in the life of an adolescent, a time when many changes are happening. One of those changes is independence that manifests itself partly in choices about entertainment. Authority figures must have an idea about what junior high students are consuming.

“We have to be aware about what’s going on culturally and be willing to engage it in productive ways” Schweitzer said. “That doesn’t mean we have to agree with it, but we have to communicate about the truth of the gospel and truth of our faith in ways that make sense.”

Schweitzer brought up the example of Paul and how he tried to minister in the New Testament. “He doesn’t go in and pull out references that no one understands. He talks to them in ways they understand culturally and ways that make sense,” he said. “That’s a huge part of what it means to communicate effectively in our culture.”

That means taking an interest in the interests of students. Those who serve as authority figures have to be able to meet the students on their level. “Think about the young adult dystopian phase right now, like the Hunger Games and Divergent [book series and movies], and if your children are into that, for you not to talk about why this is so appealing and what’s the attraction seems to me a big missed opportunity, whether it’s a parent or a teacher or a pastor,” Schweitzer said.

In the end, communication is about honesty. A genuine interest in the interest of the students will bring about real conversations about serious topics. That’s how a discussion of Yoda’s philosophies about the Force in “The Empire Strikes Back” can lead to discussions about faith and the Holy Spirit.

“They want someone who is going to respect them and listen to them and is going to, when they have a question, have a real answer,” Schweitzer said. “Saying, ‘I don’t know’ is fine, but [we also say,] ‘This is how I am able to make sense of some of this.’ That authenticity and respect is huge.”

— Josh Harbeck is a high school English teacher and member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., where he serves as a junior high teacher.

Glenn Riegel, a photographer and member of Little Swatara Church of the Brethren in Bethel, Pa., has posted albums from the National Junior High Conference at
www.facebook.com/glenn.riegel/media_set?set=a.10206911494290541.1073741846.1373319087&type=3 .

3) Work/learning group makes trip to South Sudan

Photo by Becky Rhodes
Community leaders in South Sudan meet under a tree with a work/learning group of Brethren from the United States.

By Roger Schrock

South Sudan has experienced nearly continuous war since 1955. Although a peace accord was signed between North Sudan and South Sudan in 2005, the people of South Sudan have continued to suffer under ineffective South Sudanese government, lingering military engagement with North Sudan, and tribal conflicts.

The group of Brethren who traveled to South Sudan from April 22-May 2 was aware of the 35-year relationship between the Church of the Brethren and South Sudanese people and churches. This continuous involvement has fostered the development of significant relationships that remain today.

Brethren mission philosophy

Foundational values in Brethren mission and identity reflect a holistic gospel message and a biblically based servant style of responding to the needs of people. Holistic servant ministry seeks to meet spiritual and physical needs while empowering the people of South Sudan to rebuild their lives and homeland. Partnering with other indigenous organizations and churches helps insure the sustainability of Brethren mission efforts. The work/study group viewed Brethren mission in South Sudan through the lens of holistic servant ministry.

Purpose of the trip

The group wanted to experience the current living conditions and challenges of South Sudanese people and learn about the ongoing Brethren presence in the area. Athanasus Ungang, Church of the Brethren staff in Torit since 2011, was our constant companion and guide. Discussions with him included the challenges and blessings in his work as well as his future vision for Brethren mission in South Sudan. Conversations were held with pastors of the African Inland Church (AIC); Jerome Gama Surur, deputy governor of Eastern Equatoria State in Torit; and Bishop Arkanjelo Wani of AIC in Juba. Dialogue with leaders at many levels proved to be very helpful and insightful as background and support for boosting Brethren engagement.

Our original intent was to visit several villages outside of Torit. Due to heavy rains, only one trip to Lohilla was completed. The extra time in Torit allowed for deeper discussions concerning the level of Brethren commitment in South Sudan.

Among learnings:

— Athanasus Ungang has a passion for helping the people of South Sudan. We were impressed with his sincerity, humility, accountability, and dedication. The village of Lohilla is learning to trust him and believes him to be a man of God. His relational nature embodies the vision of the Church of the Brethren.

— The Church of the Brethren owns approximately 1.5 acres of fenced land outside Torit. This Brethren Peace Center property includes two staff homes, latrines, a safe well, and a storage unit. The current land and buildings are registered under Brethren Global Service. The purchase of additional land (exact cost unspecified) for the Brethren Peace Center is under way and will bring the total acreage owned by the Church of the Brethren to 6.3 acres. Fencing for the additional land will cost approximately $25,000.

— There are deep friendships and working relationships between Athanasus Ungang and two AIC pastors, Tito and Romano. Both pastors head indigenous NGOs. These pastors say the Church of the Brethren needs to speed up the work in South Sudan, with visible results.

— The partnership between the village of Lohilla and the Church of the Brethren to construct school and church buildings is an experiment in sustainable mission. How will arrangements for teachers be made? Will the local government help provide some teachers? How will they be paid? How will school uniforms be bought? School buildings has been identified as a major need, and six other villages have never had a school, so the partnership with Lohilla compliments a broader agenda. The people of Lohilla believe everything comes from God. Our Brethren group’s presence was perceived as a blessing from God, and in return, God is blessing us. Amen!

— Local government in Torit has been unwilling to work with local leaders, including Brethren Peace Center staff, to procure and store medicines for the hospital and area clinics. The medical facilities there have no medicine.

— Athanasus Ungang envisions one ministry of the Brethren Peace Center as a resource for trauma awareness/healing and trauma training. Healing of emotional, mental, and spiritual wounds are crucial for people of a war-torn nation. Bishop Arkanjelo Wani identified trauma healing as the major priority for the people of South Sudan.

At the end of the war in 2005, millions of dollars in aid flowed into South Sudan. With this knowledge, many church denominations and NGOs did not return to South Sudan. The Sudanese government, however, has used the money for national security rather than efforts to promote social and economic development. As a result, the South Sudanese continue to suffer from nonexistent infrastructure, economic hardship, and emotional and mental trauma.

Our group feels the time is right for the Church of the Brethren to step up our commitment and involvement in South Sudan. The land needed for trauma training and housing is being procured. School buildings have been identified as a credible and important need. It appears that we may be able to find reliable partners for these ministries.

Our group experienced overwhelming appreciation for our mere presence. We didn’t have to say or do anything. The loving people of South Sudan understood we cared enough to travel and be with them. We will never forget continuing the work of Jesus, peacefully, simply, together in South Sudan.

— In addition to Roger Schrock, the Church of the Brethren group that visited South Sudan included Ilexene Alphonse, George Barnhart, Enten Eller, John Jones, Becky Rhodes, and Carolyn Schrock. For more about the church’s mission in South Sudan go to www.brethren.org/partners/sudan .

PERSONNEL

4) Fahrney-Keedy announces appointment of Stephen Coetzee as president/CEO

Stephen Coetzee is the new CEO at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village

By Michael Leiter

Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md., has announced the appointment of Stephen Coetzee as its next president and CEO. After conducting a regional and national executive search, Coetzee was selected for his 25 years of senior healthcare experience, proven financial management, and background in expanding continuing care retirement communities. A licensed nursing home administrator in the state of Maryland, he will assume his position effective July 27.

Speaking about the appointment, approved by the Board of Directors on June 18, board chair Lerry Fogle said, “Stephen is a proven leader in the senior healthcare industry who brings years of experience to the Fahrney-Keedy community. We believe that Stephen will help us accomplish our mission of enriching the lives of seniors, will move us forward toward our vision of becoming the premier senior community in the area, and will continue managed growth and expansion of our programs, services and facilities. We are excited about Stephen’s appointment.”

Fahrney-Keedy, one of the area’s highest ranked senior communities for quality care by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is presently growing and expanding. Work is underway to add independent living apartments and homes, build new skilled nursing facilities and add a multi-functional community center on the campus. Coetzee will lead the way in continuing these and other expansion efforts.

Coetzee, commenting on his appointment, said, “I am excited to be joining the team at Fahrney-Keedy. I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of a dynamic faith-based community, providing exemplary care and services to our senior community both now, and in the years to come.”

Coetzee lives in Martinsburg, W.Va. A continuing care retirement community, Fahrney-Keedy is along Route 66, a few miles north of Boonsboro. With nearly 160 full-time, part-time, and contract associates, it serves a resident population of more than 200 women and men in independent living, assisted living, and long- and short-term nursing care. Fahrney-Keedy’s mission is: “We are committed to enriching the lives of seniors.”

— Michael Leiter is vice president of Marketing and Community Development for Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village.

5) Brethren bits

The EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir and BEST group from Nigeria arrived in the US Monday afternoon, and began their summer tour that evening with a dinner hosted by the Zigler Hospitality Center at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. “Carroll County Times” was there to report on the event, and videotaped the choir singing for those welcomed them to Maryland. Video, photos, and a news report appeared as the first story on the newspaper’s website yesterday at www.carrollcountytimes.com . A direct link is at http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/news/local/ph-cc-nigerian-choir-20150622-story.html . Other newspapers have published stories in advance of the choir’s arrival in their communities including “The Reporter” which published an interview with a Nigeria volunteer and local pastor in advance of a concert at the Peter Becker Community in Pennsylvania. Interviewed were Donna Parcell, who has returned from volunteering with the Nigeria Crisis Response, and pastor Mark Baliles of Indian Creek Church of the Brethren; go to www.thereporteronline.com/general-news/20150623/nigerian-womens-choir-to-sing-at-peter-becker-community . The piece has been picked up by the Montgomery News as well, see www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2015/06/24/souderton_independent/news/doc558aae9ebe8bd465107694.txt?viewmode=fullstory .
In more media coverage:
An interview with Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer appeared in the “Courier-News” of Elgin, Ill., in advance of Friday’s concert, see www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/elgin-courier-news/lifestyles/ct-ecn-nigerian-chior-elgin-st-0621-20150619-story.html .
The Hagerstown (Md.) “Herald-Mail” helped share news about the choir’s Tuesday evening concert with an article quoting pastor Tim Hollenberg-Duffey, at www.heraldmailmedia.com/life/community/nigerian-women-s-choir-to-perform-tuesday-in-hagerstown/article_c1ca2caf-f21c-5116-9678-0cfa636b64d9.html .

On July 7, at noon, the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir and BEST group will be at an event of singing, conversation, and lunch at the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. The event at the building located at 100 Maryland Ave N.E., Washington, DC 20002, is free and open to the public. RSVPs are requested to help the organizers prepare enough food for the lunch. Send RSVPs to Nate Hosler, Director, Office of Public Witness, nhosler@brethren.org .

A potluck is being held for the EYN team who will visit San Diego (Calif.) First Church of the Brethren on Tuesday, June 30. “Please join us for potluck with members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria,” said an invitation from church members, posted on Facebook. The San Diego Church is located at 3850 Westgate Place, on the “peace campus” by the junction of Routes 805 and 94. The potluck begins at 6 p.m. (Pacific time), followed by a program at 7 p.m. The series of paintings of the Chibok girls being created by artist Brian Meyer will be on display. Speaking at the event will be Markus Gamache, staff liaison for EYN, and Zakaria Bulus, who has chaired EYN’s national youth program. “They will describe how EYN continues to live out their faith and to give thanks for the prayers and support of the Church of the Brethren and other partners in responding to their needs,” said the announcement. For more information call the church office at 619-262-1988.

BBC’s World Update radio program on June 19 aired a segment about four of the Chibok schoolgirls who escaped from Boko Haram, who have been living in the US. More than 200 of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram are still missing but four who managed to escape are now living in Oregon, having been brought by a nonprofit group to the US in order to continue their education in America. The BBC interviewed “Cosmopolitan” magazine’s Abigail Pesta, who spent time with the four girls named Mercy, Sarah, Deborah, and Grace. Listen to the radio segment at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02v2p3k .

(Shown above: the EYN women’s fellowship choir performing in Nigeria, photo by Carol Smith)

 

— Kelley Brenneman is concluding her service as intern for the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA). Next week, the BHLA will welcome Aaron Neff as the archival intern for 2015-16. He is a member of New Covenant Church of the Brethren in Gotha, Fla., and a graduate of the history department at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., where he earned a bachelor of arts in history and a bachelor of arts in music. At the college, he undertook a project to digitize historical documents and study microfiche records. His involvement with the Church of the Brethren has included attendance at Christian Citizenship Seminar, National Youth Conference, and the Bridgewater (Va.) College Roundtable. He has worked on the staff of Camp Ithiel in Gotha, where he has been a lifeguard and maintenance staff since 2009. He also has played the bass and violin and has been part of the chorus at First Congregational Church of Winter Park. Since 2011 he has worked as a professional violinist, performing professionally with other musicians in a variety of ensembles, and has tutored string students.

— The Church of the Brethren has hired Jeremy Dyer of Frederick, Md., as warehouse assistant at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. His primary responsibilities include supporting the work in Material Resources by assisting with folding quilts, baling, and loading and unloading trailers. He attends Frederick Church of the Brethren.

— Brian Gumm has resigned as minister of Leadership Development in Northern Plains District, in order to take a more limited role related to district communications. The district newsletter has announced a search for candidates for the following three part-time positions: minister of Leadership Development (detailed information at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ey3uXEZohH6e-O8kpJMupGz-j-Mr6Hpaz4MrdakBr84/edit ); minister of Communications (details at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1P0AZ26N7lvPd_2G47hBuDmXPFIupSHIPMOLsTbTb0pA/edit ); and District Conference support (go to  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vDRiajVdERn2YqPYOA2wZjs3yruH5255MeB_5A0LDns/edit ). For more information contact Beth Cage, Northern Plains District Board president, at marble@hbcsc.net , or Tim Button-Harrison, Northern Plains District executive minister, at de@nplains.org .

— Pastor Brian Flory of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., is one of the young Christian leaders interviewed in a “New York Times” article on faith and environment. “For Faithful, Social Justice Goals Demand Action on Environment” also interviews a young Mennonite leader from Illinois, and others who are making the connection between care for the earth and a Christian response to poverty including Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. It follows up on a “sweeping encyclical” issued by Roman Catholic Pope Francis that “may prove to be a watershed, highlighting the issues of social justice at the heart of the environmental crisis,” the article states. On the print edition, Flory photo appears on the front page. Go to www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/science/earth/for-faithful-social-justice-goals-demand-action-on-environment.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=3 .

— On Earth Peace has announced that it is “developing a series of opportunities to connect with people in our constituency who are wanting to work for racial justice.” In a recent e-mail newsletter, the Church of the Brethren agency announced that “this summer we are working to develop a multi-racial and multi-ethnic community of practice for racial justice organizing–people from different backgrounds and life experiences who are working for racial justice or exploring their call to do so. Participants in the community will gain nourishment, inspiration, and ideas for action, and offer their own wisdom and gifts to others seeking their next steps as racial justice workers.” One part of this effort has been briefings before and after a June 23 conference call offered by SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) on the topic “Basebuilding: Organizing from a Place of Mutual Interest.” The next call is scheduled for June 25 at 2-3 p.m. (Eastern time). For more about SURJ go to www.facebook.com/ShowingUpForRacialJusticesurj . Contact racialjustice@onearthpeace.org to express interest in the work for racial justice.

— Bassett Church of the Brethren in Virlina District will celebrate its 90th anniversary on Sunday, Aug. 23. According to an announcement from the district, the day will begin with a 10 a.m. service featuring memories and special messages from former pastors and members. The 11 a.m. worship service will feature David Shumate, Virlina District executive minister, as guest speaker. A covered dish lunch will follow. A special invitation is extended to all former pastors and members of the church.

— Donna Rhodes, executive director of the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, was one of two students to receive Juniata College’s first diplomas in a new master’s degree program in nonprofit leadership. At this year’s commencement ceremony at the school in Huntingdon, Pa., Rhodes joined Adam Miller, director of emergency management for Huntingdon County, as the historic first recipients for Juniata’s master’s degree in nonprofit leadership, according to a college release. The program is directed by Celia Cook-Huffman, professor of conflict resolution. Both recipients hold bachelor degrees from Juniata, Rhodes having earned hers in 1984, and Miller earning his in 2008. The release noted that Rhodes holds a ministry training certificate from the Church of the Brethren and worked early in her career to coordinate the educational ministry at Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon. “Even though my current job is a ministry, there are so many other aspects of governance related to a nonprofit business,” she explained in the release. “Juniata’s nonprofit leadership degree enhanced my administrative skills.”


Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Deborah Brehm, Josh Harbeck, Wendy McFadden, Nate Hosler, Roger Schrock, John Wall, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for June 30. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.