Tuesday, September 01, 2020


-- Discipleship Ministries staff have shared a prayer request for the Church of the Brethren-related retirement communities. “We ask that the church be in prayer for the 21 retirement communities that are part of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes,” said Joshua Brockway, cocoordinator of Discipleship Ministries. “Please pray for the administrators as they steward their resources to provide care in the midst of a pandemic. Pray for the nurses and staff as they care for the community members physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And most of all, pray for the mental and physical wellbeing of the community members themselves. May God watch over each one, granting wisdom and peace.” 

Go to www.brethren.org/homes/directory.html for the listing and web addresses for the 21 communities in the Fellowship of Brethren Homes.

-- Retirement communities have been sharing suggestions for ways to help their residents and staff during the pandemic: 

Financial donations for purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) may be particularly helpful during this time. Several of the church-related communities, including Fahrney Keedy Senior Living Community in Boonsboro, Md., have made such requests. 

Some retirement communities are welcoming donations of home-sewn masks for staff and residents. There are many websites offering instructions for making masks, here is one recommended by Pinecrest, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill.: www.regmedctr.org/webres/File/031920%20Properfit%20Clothing%20Co_%202_5%20PM%20Surgical%20Mask%20Sewing%20Instructions.pdf

Also from Pinecrest comes this suggestion to help residents who may be feeling isolated as their facilities are closed to visitors. “If you're looking for ways to keep your children busy while they are off school, would you consider having them make a card or a picture for our residents? You could mail them to ‘Any Resident,’ Pinecrest Manor, 414 S. Wesley Ave., Mt. Morris, IL 61054.”

-- Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) is inviting Church of the Brethren congregations to send Christmas cards and holiday greetings to the current BVS volunteers. “Our volunteers love receiving cards and greetings from Brethren congregations!” said an announcement. To request a list of the current BVS volunteers contact bvs@brethren.org .

-- The Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry invites pastors to apply to participate in its Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program. Open to any Church of the Brethren pastor serving in a congregational role that is less than full-time, the program offers support, resources, and companionship for the 77 percent of the denomination’s clergy who serve as multivocational pastors. Pastors who join the program will receive one-one-one encouragement and consultation with a regionally based “circuit rider” who will schedule an in-person visit to encourage and help identify specific challenges and places where some extra support could be helpful. The circuit rider will work to connect pastors with colleagues, educational resources, and experts who can offer guidance, companionship, and encouragement. This grant-funded program is free of charge to Church of the Brethren multivocational pastors. Find more information and the online application form at www.brethren.org/part-time-pastor . Contact Dana Cassell, program manager, with questions at dcassell@brethren.org .

-- The National Council of Churches, of which the Church of the Brethren is a member denomination, is offering daily scriptures, prayers, and meditations by Christian leaders from a wide variety of church traditions. Yesterday's meditation, for example, was written by Timothy Tee Boddie, a minister at the Alfred Street Baptist Church and immediate past general secretary and chief administrative officer of the Progressive National Baptist Convention in Washington, D.C. Find this daily devotional resource at http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/topics/daily .

-- Messenger magazine is offering online puzzle pages for children and families staying safe-at-home during the pandemic. The two pages of puzzles have been put together with help from Zoe Vorndran, intern at the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, based on the Church of the Brethren camps at www.brethren.org/messenger/articles/2020/puzzles-brethren-camps.html and the church-related colleges and universities at www.brethren.org/messenger/articles/2020/crossword-brethren-colleges.html . “Zoe, thank you for the challenging clues!” said a note from the Messenger editorial team. Messenger is the denominational magazine of the Church of the Brethren.

-- The World Council of Churches (WCC) has announced a webinar and a new e-book offering examples of “best practices” from churches across the world that are taking their ministry and services online because of COVID-19. 

A new publication by one of the featured speakers at the webinar, Heidi Campbell, professor of communication at Texas A&M University and director of the Network for New Media, Religion, and Digital Culture Studies, is called “The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church Online.” This e-book was created with input from 30 practitioners and researchers sharing their current experiences and observations. Contributors come from 10 different countries, representing 12 different Christian denominations. “The goal is to get this material out to those who will most benefit from a project of this nature--religious communities wrestling with the sudden move from offline to online ministry through digitally-mediated contexts,” said Campbell. 

Find out more at www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/taking-your-ministry-online-webinar-new-publication-will-give-solid-how-tos .

-- Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has added a number of new resources for children and families to its COVID-19 resources page. Go to https://covid19.brethren.org/resources-for-children-families .

-- Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., has been instrumental in advocating for a handwashing station for residents who don’t have shelter in downtown Elgin. Cheryl Gray, a church volunteer who leads the congregation’s Community Engagement Team and ongoing Soup Kettle ministry, helped advocate with city leaders to provide restroom and hygiene facilities for the homeless population. Reported Gray in the church newsletter: “As businesses and other facilities shuttered mid-March at the urging of our Governor, Elgin residents who lived unsheltered in downtown Elgin found themselves without any restroom facilities. Even the lobby of the Elgin Police Department was deemed off-limits due to COVID-19. The City placed two port-o-lets in Carleton Rogers Park but were reluctant to provide more facilities for handwashing because of potential vandalism or other misuse.” After some weeks of communications with city officials, a creative handwashing station was built by the city’s Public Works Department. The newsletter described the handwashing station as having three spigots and a drinking fountain that use a fire hydrant as a water source. The church is providing bars of soap that hang by the water spigots in nylon stockings--“a Brethren-like move,” the newsletter commented. Signs posted at the site indicate that users can get individual bars of soap at the Soup Kettle.

-- Illinois and Wisconsin District disaster response coordinator Loren Habegger has shared an urgent message from the state’s VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters) on the need to support food banks and pantries. “The food bank /pantries are facing imminent substantial shortages from an increased demand in part related to families with bread winners being unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the email. “Food banks are seeing 70 percent more people seeking assistance with 40 percent of people first-time users.” The email went on to list the eight regional food banks that are coordinated by Feeding Illinois, for the purpose of sending donations. Each state will have its own list of regional food banks in need of donations and volunteer support at this time. “Alternatively, donations can be made directly to various local food pantries in your area that coordinate with the regional banks. Donation of ‘shelf-stable’ items to local pantries is also encouraged,” said the email. “Thank you for considering your participation in addressing this urgent need.” Find a national listing of food banks at www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank .

--Mary Scott Boria of First Church of the Brethren in Chicago, Ill., has sewn 1,000 COVID-19 masks, “and counting!” report fellow church members Joyce and John Cassel. “Masks for hospital workers, prison inmates, anti-violence street workers, senior citizens in public housing, postal workers, police detectives, disabled people, grandchildren, and others. Masks were sent to Boulder, New York City, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Puerto Rico, Chicago, suburban Chicago, and other locations.” Boria is a longtime member and a strong leader in the congregation. She has “always loved fabric, and loved to sew,” the Cassels write. “Across the years Mary created many artistic and creative pieces, like the Pentecost banner she made for First Church.” They report that sewing has been an important part of life for Boria, who has had connections to the Textiles Department of the Chicago Art Institute, and at one point owned four sewing machines. Her project to sew face masks started when a friend expressed frustration, via Facebook, about not being able to find a mask for her disabled brother. “Mary said to herself, ‘I can make a mask.’ And she improvised two for her friend.” After her friend wrote a post appreciating Boria’s mask-making gifts, other people started to contact her asking for masks, “and the requests exploded.”

-- Brethren Disaster Ministries is asking for help with supplying cloth face masks. “Whenever serving is possible again, these will be used to provide to those volunteering on rebuilding project sites who do not have their own,” said an announcement. “Depending on the supply available, more could be provided to homeowners, other partners in the areas of our sites, or other places as identified. Two suggested options with instructions on how to make the masks can be provided.” If you, a group at your church, or your district can help with making and supplying masks contact Terry Goodger at 410-635-8730 or tgoodger@brethren.org .

-- The former associate director of Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), Kathy Fry-Miller, has published a new children’s picture book about the coronavirus titled “Helpers Win: Yucky-rus Virus.” Fry-Miller is the author of the book that is illustrated entirely by children. The book also is a fundraiser, and donations are being received to CDS. Find out more at https://lnkd.in/ekKEaB7.

-- Eli Kellerman, a graduating senior and member of the youth group at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., who plans to study to become a nurse and midwife, has received the James E. Renz Pinecrest Memorial Scholarship from the Pinecrest Retirement Community Board.

-- Church World Service (CWS) seeks an executive assistant who will provide executive-level support to the senior vice president, senior director for Resource Generation, and director for Policy and Advocacy, as well as the resettlement and integration team. The position manages expenses, answers routine correspondence, and assembles and manages highly confidential and sensitive information including legal documents and attorney-client privileged materials. The position also deals with a diverse group of important external callers and visitors as well as internal contacts at all levels of the organization. Independent judgment is required to plan, prioritize, and organize a diversified workload, and exercise independent thinking and decision making. The ideal candidate will have several years of experience in handling a wide range of key administrative, research, and executive support-related tasks, and be exceedingly well organized, flexible, and scrupulous with time management. Must be able to function effectively, and within a timely manner, in a dynamic, fast-paced environment under minimal supervision. Find a link to the full position description at https://cws-careers.vibehcm.com/portal.jsp .

-- An article “All About York Center Co-op” has been published by the Lombard (Ill.) Historical Society. The co-op was begun by a Church of the Brethren member and over the course of its existence from 1947 to 2010 included, among others, members of York Center Church of the Brethren and people related to Bethany Theological Seminary--which formerly was located in Oak Brook, Ill. “In 1947, an idea for establishing a cooperative community was conceived by a man named Louis Shirky, a member of the Church of the Brethren,” the article begins. “He learned that a DuPage county dairy farm, owned by the Goltermann family, was for sale, just to the south of the town of Lombard in an unincorporated area of the county known as York Center. Fourteen families raised $30,000 to purchase the property and began the work of creating their own neighborhood.... The bylaws were written by a Black attorney, Theodore ‘Ted’ Robinson, who lived in Chicago with his wife, Leya, a Jewish social worker, and their two daughters.” The history goes to tell of the co-op’s struggle to become and maintain an inter-racial and multicultural community, including a lawsuit that went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. Find the article at www.lombardhistory.org/blog/2020/6/16/all-about-york-center-co-op .

-- The document “Checklist for Reopening Church Buildings” offers practical suggestions for congregations navigating the transition of returning to their church buildings. Now available in both Spanish and English, the resource was developed by members of the Recovery Response Task Team of the Church of the Brethren denominational staff: Stan Dueck and Joshua Brockway of Discipleship Ministries, Roy Winter of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, and Nancy S. Heishman of the Office of Ministry. Go to https://covid19.brethren.org .

-- Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) seeks an assistant director of Financial Operations to fill a full-time salaried position based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The primary function is to review and coordinate the reporting of all accounting and financial transactions related to the operations of the programs and administration of BBT. Duties include producing monthly financial statements; managing payroll; monitoring and managing cash flow; preparing detailed account analyses; reviewing journal entries, bank and investment account reconciliations; preparing tax forms and maintaining tax return files and the general ledger; partnering with crossfunctional groups to drive and influence business solutions and best in class process improvements; assisting in annual budget and auditing; developing and maintaining a working knowledge of all financial systems; completing other duties as assigned and providing backup for other positions in the Finance Department. Qualifications include an undergraduate degree in accounting and finance. A CPA is required or the process for obtaining certification has been started. The ideal candidate will possess strong technical and professional skills with at least five years of experience, a strong working knowledge of fund accounting, an intense attention to detail, a track record in developing first-in-class operating processes across product lines within a complex enterprise, strong verbal and written communication skills, leadership/supervisory skills, be a confident self-starter with ability to work with minimal supervision, excellent problem-solving and analytic skills, impeccable integrity, and a collegial and engaging demeanor. Nonprofit accounting experience is a plus and current and active membership in a faith community is preferred. Salary and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. Send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary range expectations to Michelle Kilbourne at mkilbourne@cobbt.org . For more information about BBT see www.cobbt.org .

-- In place of its annual luncheon during the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference this year, the Women’s Caucus Steering Committee announced a “virtual luncheon” in the form of an online panel discussion on the topic “Speaking Truth to Power.” “We are sad to not get to meet with you all in person this year,” said an invitation. “Annual Conference is a great time for connection and one of the ways that we can see our supporters and members in person. We are happy that we were able to move our panel to a virtual space with the great help and support of Livingstream Church of the Brethren!” Leading the online panel discussion were Gimbiya Kettering, Debbie Eisenbise, and Madalyn Metzger. The event was recorded and is posted at www.womaenscaucus.org .

-- “Messenger” magazine has posted a racial justice page at www.brethren.org/messenger/articles/racial-justice.html . This page offers a collection of the magazine’s articles addressing race in recent years, plus some excerpts and images from key pieces.

-- A staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 at Pinecrest Community, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill. "No residents with symptoms have been reported as of Monday, July 13," reported the "Ogle County News.” Pinecrest CEO Ferol Labash reported the case in a letter to residents and resident representatives, the newspaper said, reporting that last week, Pinecrest “performed COVID-19 testing of residents and staff to establish a baseline as recommended by CMS. It received the results of 202 tests and is still waiting for the results on 60 tests.” Read the article, which includes details about Pinecrest’s extensive COVID-19 protocols, at www.oglecountynews.com/2020/07/15/pinecrest-staff-member-tests-positive-for-covid-19/atp55ot .

-- Steve Lipinski, manager of Brethren Foundation Operations for Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) for nearly 13 years, has announced his retirement, effective Aug. 5. His last day of work at the BBT offices at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., was July 20. Sherri Crowe, client manager for the Brethren Foundation, will assume the duties of manager of Brethren Foundation Operations on Aug. 5. BBT has announced an opening for a new client manager for the Brethren Foundation.

-- The Church of the Brethren seeks an executive director of Global Mission to fill a full-time salaried position based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The major responsibility is to guide and implement the international mission program of the Church of the Brethren; direct and administer denominational mission efforts; generate a responsive and integrated denominational mission structure with grassroots support and involvement; and nurture an ongoingconversation about mission (evangelism, church-planting, service, peace, and reconciliation) among membership. Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision and mission of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board; significant understanding of mission theology and practice, with specific knowledge of relief, development, and/or church planting mission operations in the international context; extensive management and organizational skills developed through experience supervising multiple staff and administering multi-site programs; skills to coach highly educated and self-motivated professionals, many of whom are off-site domestically and internationally; ability to coordinate multiple processes and projects; strong skills in verbal and written communications; knowledge of cross-cultural adjustment, dependency issues, ecumenical cooperation, and interfaith challenges gained from working internationally; language capabilities in addition to English. A seminary degree or master’s degree in a relevant field is required. Applications are being received and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Send a resume to COBApply@brethren.org or to Human Resources Manager, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.v

-- Almost all of the district conferences across the Church of the Brethren denomination have been canceled or are online this year. According to a calendar that is kept by the General Secretary’s office: 

Holding district conferences online are Atlantic Northeast (Oct. 2-3, led by moderator Karen Hackett), Illinois and Wisconsin (Nov. 6-7, led by moderator Rick Koch), Michigan (Aug. 14-15, led by moderator Mary Lorah Hammond), Missouri and Arkansas (Sept. 11-12, led by moderator Paul Landes), Northern Plains (July 31-Aug. 2, led by moderator Lucinda Douglas), Pacific Northwest (Sept. 18-20, led by moderator Ben Green), Pacific Southwest (Nov. 13-15, led by moderator Mary Kay Ogden), Southern Ohio and Kentucky (Oct. 9-10, led by moderator Sandy Jenkins), Virlina (Nov. 13-14, led by moderator Cathy Huffman), and Western Plains (July 23-26, led by moderator Vickie Samland).

Cancelling their district conferences are Atlantic Southeast, Northern Indiana, South/Central Indiana, Mid-Atlantic, Northern Ohio, Middle Pennsylvania, Southern Pennsylvania, Shenandoah, and West Marva. 

Idaho and Western Montana District’s decision whether to meet virtually is pending, and date and location of Puerto Rico’s district conference are yet to be determined. 

Southern Plains has postponed its district conference to January 2021 at Antelope Valley Church of the Brethren in Billings, Okla., led by moderator Matthew Prejean.

-- In related news, the Northern Indiana District Board sent the following announcement on Aug. 12: “Last night, after much discussion, the board made the difficult decision to cancel our District Conference for 2020. We will not be meeting in person or online this year. While we will miss the opportunity to gather together for conversation and worship, we feel like this is the course that will ensure that everyone remains safe and that we avoid the risk of spreading infection across the district.” However, a live-streamed district worship service will be held Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. with Evan Garber preaching. Also, the district will deal with two items of business by mail: electing leadership and affirming the district budget for 2021.

-- Sarah Farahat, who has been a member of York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., but who is living in Oregon, had a part in the state’s roll call video on Tuesday evening at the Democratic National Convention. Farahat headed up a team of artists who created the mural that provided the backdrop for the video. The mural, titled “We Choose Love,” is at the Hollywood Transit Center in Portland, “where white supremacist Jeremy Christian killed two men on a MAX train in May 2017, after they and others stepped in to defend fellow passengers who were the targets of Christian’s racist slurs,” according to a “Portland Monthly” piece on how the video was made. See www.pdxmonthly.com/news-and-city-life/2020/08/how-oregons-contribution-to-that-viral-dnc-roll-call-video-came-together . Find a TriMet story about the mural’s significance at https://trimet.org/tribute .