Tuesday, December 01, 2020


In the wake of the grand jury decision in the Breonna Taylor case, an invitation to an anti-racism experience called “30 Days of Anti-Racism” has been issued by the Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministry. Although the experience was designed for the month of September, the Intercultural Ministry is inviting Brethren to begin this together on Sept. 30. “Start with Day 1 and go from there. Take some moments to journal as you go,” said the invitation. The experience is organized by R-Squared for people who want to do inner, spiritual work to end racism. “Each day we will engage in an activity that helps us to become more anti-racist in the ways we think and act,” said a description from R-Squared. Participants share their progress online with a picture or a reflection using the hashtag #30DaysAntiRacism. “Encourage your friends, members of your congregation, Sunday school class, pastors, and community partners to join this 30 day experience.” Download the resource from www.r2hub.org/library/30-days-of-anti-racism.

In a “Statement on Grand Jury Findings in Killing of Breonna Taylor” the National Council of Churches (NCC) cited Deuteronomy 16:19, “You must not distort justice,” to condemn the outcome of the investigation into the police shooting of Breonna Taylor.

“More than six months later, it appears that justice delayed was also justice denied,” the statement said, in part. The NCC “finds the outcome of the investigation into Ms. Taylor’s death, which holds no one directly accountable, unconscionable and unjust. We grieve for her family and loved ones who have borne the burden of fighting for justice for her. We call on all people of faith and conscience to continue the fight for justice and to end systemic racism so that this kind of tragedy never happens again….

“It is not lost on us that Sept. 23, 2020, was 65 years to the date when the white men who killed Emmett Till were found not guilty by an all white jury…. The handling of this case has been a gross miscarriage of justice from the execution of the warrant to the police actions on the scene, and the prosecutorial review and processing of the violation of Ms. Taylor’s civil rights and the circumstances of her death. We call for a full independent investigation of the facts. We demand a pattern and practice investigation of the Louisville Metro Police Department. We call on the US Department of Justice to immediately intensify its investigation and include a review to determine the extent to which Ms. Taylor’s civil rights were violated. Furthermore, we are dismayed that Det. Hankison, charged with actions that could have resulted in the death of a person, was granted bond of only $15,000 while protestors, exercising their First Amendment rights, have been arrested in Louisville and elsewhere are given bonds of up to $1,000,000….” 

Find the full statement at https://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/statement-on-grand-jury-findings-in-killing-of-breonna-taylor.

Volunteer openings have been announced by the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry:

High school juniors and seniors are sought to serve on the National Youth Cabinet, with nominations due by Oct. 19. Nominations are made via a Google form and/or a PDF form at www.brethren.org/yya.

Coordinators are sought for National Youth Conference (NYC) 2022. NYC coordinators are typically young adults who serve as fulltime volunteers through Brethren Volunteer Service, working at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Room, board, health insurance, and a small stipend are among the benefits offered. Coordinator applications are accepted through Oct. 31. Application forms are online at https://forms.gle/i4uvEzmyjRzJUT8v9.

“How to Become a Climate-Resilient Church” is the topic of an online webinar on Sept. 29 at 6-7 p.m. (Eastern time) offered by Creation Justice Ministries and recommended by the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. “You’ll learn practical steps for how your church can become a certified climate resilience hub, provide much-needed support for the ‘new normal’ in your community, and hear from existing climate resilience hubs,” said an announcement. Speakers include Staccato Powell, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Western District; Vernon Walker of Communities Responding to Extreme Weather; Liz Steinhauser of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Resilience Hub in Boston; and Avery Davis Lamb of Duke Divinity and the Nicholas School of the Environment. Register at  https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEkfuyqpzovGNCaDaCTPRZ6WLBxrV_D8ZCT. This event is part of Communities Responding to Extreme Weather’s 3rd Annual Climate Prep Week, a series of events hosted by various organizations dedicated to learning, service, and actions that better prepare communities for extreme weather events. For more events see www.climatecrew.org/prep_week.

A series of unique podcasts focusing “On Speaking Truth to Power” have been produced as episodes of “Messenger Radio” at www.brethren.org/messenger/uncategorized/messenger-radio. Each includes a reading of the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary scriptures.

“Many thanks to Anna Lisa Gross and all of those who are contributing,” said a recent Facebook post on behalf of the denominational magazine Messenger. The most recent episode features interviews with Audri Svay and Dana Cassell, who share personal insights into the division that is occurring in parts of the Church of the Brethren and continue an ongoing conversation about what it means to be a person of power or a powerless person in the church community and whether we are ever just one or the other.

Also new from “Messenger Radio” is publisher Wendy McFadden reading her column from the August issue, “In the Name of Jesus.”

The new season of the Dunker Punks Podcast has begun. “As we kick off a new season of the podcast in episode #102, ‘The Ups and Downs of Being a Tour Guide,’ Christa Craighead tells us some stories from her world and the impact guides and teachers make in our lives,” said an announcement. Listen for her reflections, a new theme song, and more by going to bit.ly/DPP_Episode102. In episode 103, ‘Defining ‘Apocalypse,’ Alex McBride explores the true meaning of “apocalypse” and the possibilities it might bring. Go to bit.ly/DPP_Episode103 or subscribe at bit.ly/DPP_iTunes

The September episode of Brethren Voices, a community access television show that is a project of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, features Mark Charles on the topic “We the People.” Charles, who has spoken at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, is an independent candidate for president and a member of the Dine or Navajo nation. He was first interviewed by Brethren Voices in July 2018 at the Conference held in Cincinnati, Ohio. This episode was filmed prior to the major onset of the pandemic, when Brethren Voices host Brent Carlson met up with Charles at one of his campaign appearances, said an announcement from producer Ed Groff. “During the past 25 years, his [Charles’s] concerns about the disturbing history of this nation has led him on a journey as an activist, public speaker, consultant, and co-author of the book Unsettling Truths…. In this program, Mark Charles takes us down the path to new understanding, that we never learned in school.” Charles stated, “Do you want to live in a nation where ‘We the People’ means all of the people? We are a diverse people where change can happen.” Find this and other episodes of Brethren Voices on www.youtube.com, search for the Brethren Voices channel.

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, co-coordinator 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?fbclid=IwAR3JJPPzY7liY4fqeYj4mUiHkXNbjUjTonaMVsQ64_akQ9G8e2WW-Tqdt_I.

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.

“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.

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.

A new video resource from the Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program features congregational leaders sharing about the joys and challenges of calling part-time pastors. Intended to be encouragement and guidance for congregations that either have called part-time pastors or are considering a shift in how to call ministerial leaders, this conversation addresses both practical considerations and spiritual opportunities of becoming a “full-time” congregation. The video features leaders from Forest Chapel Church of the Brethren in Shenandoah District, Eel River Church of the Brethren in South Central Indiana District, and Cabool Church of the Brethren in Missouri and Arkansas District. View and download the video at https://vimeo.com/464363428 or learn more about Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church at www.brethren.org/ministryoffice.

Terry Goodger has resigned as program assistant for Brethren Disaster Ministries, as of Dec. 31. She is leaving to take another job. She has been the program assistant for the disaster rebuilding program for more than three years, since June 2017. Her work has included scheduling and interacting with weekly volunteer groups and district disaster coordinators, tracking and updating rebuilding program information, among numerous other tasks to help keep the rebuilding project sites running. Goodger previously worked for the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program for 10 years, starting in Sept. 2006 and ending in Sept. 2016, serving as office coordinator. Her work for the Church of the Brethren has been at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

Creation Justice Ministries, the ecological justice counterpart to the National Council of Churches, is currently hiring for three positions: A new Washington, D.C.-based advocate to help facilitate faith communities’ ocean-climate action, embedding in the Washington Inter-religious Staff Committee and establishing strong relationships in the Biden-Harris Administration and with key committee staff in Congress (see www.creationjustice.org/join-our-teampublic-witness-advocate.html). Two fellowships based in California; if an applicant emerges who is well-qualified to complete the scope of work in both job descriptions, Creation Justice Ministries is open to employing the same person to do both for up to a total of 1,000 hours: A California Conservation Equity Fellow to center narratives of Black and Indigenous peoples in California, helping to form a network of relationships with California stakeholders for equity in the US public lands and waters system, with a particular focus on Indigenous and Black leaders, among other tasks (see www.creationjustice.org/join-our-teamconservation-equity-fellowship.html). A California Truth and Healing Fellow to closely follow the work of the California Truth and Healing Council, as well as the Reparations Task Force, among other tasks (see www.creationjustice.org/join-our-team-truth-and-healing-fellowship.html).

Brethren Volunteer Service is inviting Church of the Brethren congregations and members to help support BVS volunteers this Christmas by sending cards and greetings. “Our volunteers love receiving cards and greetings from Brethren congregations!” said an announcement. For a list of current BVSers and their mailing addresses, formatted for printing on labels, contact bvs@brethren.org.

The Parables Community, a fellowship of Illinois and Wisconsin District that has focused on serving those with disabilities and their families, will close on Dec. 31. “The COVID pandemic contributed heavily to the decision to close,” said an announcement from the fellowship’s board. “The Parables Community ministry incorporates many sensory elements when meeting for worship and other events. When in-person gathering ceased because of the pandemic, using non-sensory virtual methods for meeting were inadequate to meet the needs of ministry participants. In addition, a significant fundraising event, which would have helped to sustain the ministry, had to be canceled due to pandemic restrictions. The converging of the aforementioned factors impeded the ability of Parables Community to sustain operations.” The board expressed hope that the fellowship has helped the district learn and grow “in ways which will translate into future opportunities for unique ministries to emerge and serve among us.” The closure will be affirmed at the 2021 district conference.

H. Lamar Gibble was recognized for his 65 years as an ordained minister by the Illinois and Wisconsin District conference in November. Gibble served for many years on the denominational staff of the Church of the Brethren, working in the areas of peace witness and ecumenical and international relations.