From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Newsline - Church of the Brethren news update

Date Fri, 21 Dec 2001 10:42:14 EST

Date: Dec. 21, 2001
Contact: Walt Wiltschek
V: 847/742-5100 F: 847/742-6103

 1) Brethren delegation begins building bridges in Iraq. 
 2) Emergency Disaster Fund makes series of end-of-year grants.
 3) MoR takes steps to develop Practitioner Network.
 4) BBT board examines long-term care, investments.
 5) Bridgewater football falls just short of national championship.
 6) La Verne claims women's volleyball title.
 7) Many Brethren join this year's vigil at Fort Benning.
 8) Brethren bits: Refugee program, Cuba, retirements, more.

 9) New album is in tune with work of Global Food Crisis Fund.
10) The house(s) that Faus built: a memory lives on.


 1) Several days later than expected due to a delay in receiving
visas, a Church of the Brethren delegation finally arrived in
Baghdad, Iraq, the evening of Sunday, Dec. 16. 

The six-member delegation, coordinated through the General Board's
Brethren Witness office, flew to Amman, Jordan, on Dec. 10. They
hoped to enter Iraq a few days later, but the Iraqi visas were held
up and put off their departure. 

Once they arrived in Baghdad, the group spent their first full day
seeing cultural sites around the city and dining as guests of an
Iraqi family for a special meal celebrating the end of the Muslim
holy month of Ramadan. They shared some of the Ramadan greeting
cards sent along by Brethren congregations and members with the 20
or so people present.

"They are very pleased at this personal expression from Christians
in the US," writes Brethren Witness director David Radcliff, one of
the delegation members. Radcliff also related the story of a
college student who said five students needed to share one textbook
in her classes, one effect of ongoing UN economic sanctions against

Learning about the effects of those sanctions is one purpose of the
delegation's visit. They also hope to show solidarity with the
people of Iraq, bring greetings, fellowship with Iraqi Christians,
build new connections of friendship, and gain understanding to be
able to interpret the situation back in the United States.

Due to their later-than-anticipated entry into Iraq, the delegation
decided to extend their stay a few days beyond their initial plan.
They will now return to the US on Dec. 26.

 2) The Church of the Brethren General Board's Emergency Disaster
Fund is making a parade of grants as the calendar year draws to a
close. Allocations made this week will send aid to projects in
North Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, bringing to
23 the total number of grants made from the fund this year.

The North Carolina grant, for $15,000, joins an ongoing response to
the devastation caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The money will
support the Wilson Interfaith Recovery Committee, which recently
asked the General Board's Emergency Response/Service Ministries
office to extend its presence in Wilson through December 2002. Many
low-income residents are still awaiting assistance. Daryl and Vonda
Ebersole are serving as disaster project directors in January.

The largest of the new domestic grants will send $25,000 to the
Wyoming County, W.Va., Long-Term Recovery effort, following floods
that devastated the area this year. The funds will be used to help
distribute household goods to about 250 families a week.

In Arizona, an allocation of $10,000 will go to the Wenden-Salome
Flood Recovery Commission for communities stricken by flash floods
in October 2000. The funds will be used in direct assistance to
affected families still awaiting repairs. A call recently went out
for Brethren "snowbirds" in the Southwest to volunteer with
projects in the area this winter.

And in Oklahoma, the fund will provide $5,000 to the Cordell
Ministerial Alliance to help in the aftermath of a severe tornado
that affected 475 homes, leaving 132 uninhabitable. The funds will
be used to support the efforts of the ministerial alliance to
provide replacement supplies and fill unmet needs.

Elsewhere, a tornado recovery/rebuilding project in Siren, Wis., is
expected to resume in early spring.

 3) The Ministry of Reconciliation (MoR), a program of On Earth
Peace, is continuing to develop its Practitioner Network of
mediators, facilitators, and trainers.

The Calling and Ministry Committee met in New Windsor, Md., Oct.
26-28 to finalize application materials for the network and set the
process by which applicants would be recognized as MoR
practitioners. While a pool of skilled MoR practitioners already
exists, the organization says there is a long-felt need for a more
extensive network with expectations for entry and service.

The new network has been in development and testing for three years
and will be launched at the beginning of 2002 with a two-pronged
effort: First, MoR is inviting all those who feel a call to serve
in reconciling ministries to learn more about the network and apply
for recognition. And second, the organization plans to make an
energetic effort to call people known to be gifted in one or more
of MoR's three main service areas--facilitation, conflict
intervention, and teaching.

MoR also sponsored a workshop at Camp Mack in Milford, Ind., Nov.
15-17, titled "Approaches to Congregational Conflict." Topics
included "Assessment and Analysis of Conflicted Situation,"
"Designing Congregational Intervention Plans," and "Skills for
Group Facilitation."

The 20 people participating included pastors, Discipleship and
Reconciliation Committee members, and mediators, representing all
six districts in Area 2 (Midwest). The workshop was led by Goshen
(Ind.) College professor Carolyn Schrock-Shenk and On Earth Peace
co-director Bob Gross. It was the fourth in a series of
practitioner workshops held at Camp Mack. The next one is scheduled
for Nov. 14-16, 2002.

Those interested in more information about the Practitioner Network
can contact On Earth Peace at 410-635-8704 or

 4) The Brethren Benefit Trust board heard a basic plan for
providing long-term care coverage for pastors and church workers at
its fall meeting, Nov. 16-17 in Akron, Ohio.

As presented by staff, the plan calls for a long-term care benefit
that would provide $1,000 a month in coverage for up to three years
to all pre-retired BBT Pension Plan participants. BBT would act as
the over-arching employer, which would keep the benefit
non-taxable. In turn, a small fee would be assessed against plan
member accounts to cover administrative costs.

"This benefit responds in part to a real need of our members but
does not respond to the full need," BBT president Wil Nolen said,
noting that the average cost at the 24 Brethren retirement homes is
roughly $3,000 per month.

Options available to individuals could include the purchase of
additional coverage. BBT staff are expected to present a formal
long-term benefit proposal to the board in April.

Other business at the meetings included the following:

*The board approved changes to Pension Plan guidelines that will
allow plan members with severe financial needs to take "hardship
withdrawals" from the employee portion of their pension accounts.
All attempts to uncover other sources of income would be made prior
to granting a hardship withdrawal, according to Pension Plan
director Don Fecher.

*BBT Insurance Plans director reported that staff had engaged in
negotiations with current insurance carriers to hold down premium
increases for Medical Plan members for 2002. Active members in the
ministers' group would otherwise have faced 43 percent increases.
Looking beyond 2002, staff have talked with Mennonite Mutual Aid
regarding possible coverage for Brethren Medical Plan members
within MMA's Congregational Employee Plan.

*Staff reported that BBT investments continued to meet or exceed
industry benchmarks even during the troubled economy of this fall.
The domestic stock and balanced funds were down for the year, but
outperforming their benchmarks. The bond fund, meanwhile, had
picked up the slack and was up 11.4 percent for the year.

*The board approved revising its guidelines to allow bond fund
managers to invest up to 15 percent of holdings in high-yield
securities, seeking additional value.

*Staff reported an active role in shareholder advocacy during the
year with plans to increase BBT's advocacy role in 2002. 

*The board approved raising annual contribution limits to the
Pension Plan and allowing the transfer of funds from other employer
retirement accounts into Brethren Pension Plan accounts; a housing
allowance exclusion of up to 100 percent of total retirement
compensation for retired ministers and up to 100 percent of gross
incomes for ministers receiving a long-term disability benefit; and
a 2.6 percent increase to the Church Workers Assistance Plan income
guidelines for 2002.

 5) Bridgewater (Va.) College's team came agonizingly close to the
NCAA Division III national football championship, coming up just
three points short.

The Eagles lost to Mount Union (Ohio) College 30-27 in the title
game, held Saturday in Salem, Va. A large contingent of Bridgewater
fans watched in the sold-out Stagg Bowl, and many others watched
the game's national broadcast on ESPN2.

Bridgewater took an early lead when quarterback Jason Lutz hit
Marcus Richardson with a long pass on the first play of the game,
but perennial power Mount Union stormed back and eventually held a
30-13 lead. Two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Eagles made it
close, but a final attempt to cover an onsides kick came up empty
and left Mount Union with its second straight title and sixth

Bridgewater coach Michael Clark was named Division III National
Coach of the Year by Football Gazette, and Lutz was named
Virginia's College Division Player of the Year by The Roanoke
Times. Offensive linemen Michael Day and Matt Huffman and running
back Davon Cruz also garnered first-team honors.

It was the first-ever championship appearance for Bridgewater,
which finished 12-1.

 6) The University of La Verne (Calif.) is celebrating a national
championship for its women's volleyball team. The Leopards edged
another Church of the Brethren-affiliated school, Juniata College,
in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III tournament before
topping top-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater in the finals on Dec. 1.

Leopards coach Don Flora, a La Verne alumnus and a member of the La
Verne Church of the Brethren, was named Division III National Coach
of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. His
teams have gone 52-3 over the past two years. This was his fourth
year with the women's team after coaching the La Verne men's team
from 1993-1997. Flora and Juniata coach Larry Bock also reaped
Regional Coach of the Year honors.

It is the third women's volleyball national championship in La
Verne's history. La Verne won the AIAW championship in 1981, and
then the first NCAA Division III title the following year. The
Leopards had not been back to the championship game since 1985.

This year's showdown against Juniata -- which Flora called a "great
match" -- went down to the deciding fifth game, which La Verne won

La Verne freshman player Adele Jones, from Fresno, Calif., is the
granddaughter of La Verne Church of the Brethren members Ed and
Nellie Mae Jones. Another La Verne player, freshman Amy Kratochvil,
will be featured in the "Faces in the Crowd" section of an upcoming
issue of Sports Illustrated.

 7) More than 10,000 people gathered in Columbus, Ga., Nov. 17-18
to protest  the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security
Cooperation, formerly known as the School of Americas (SOA).

The Church of the Brethren General Board passed a resolution in
1997 calling for a permanent close of the School of Americas,
citing the denomination's historical statements on war and
violence. A growing number of Brethren have been making the annual
trek to the training facility; this year, more than 150 Brethren
gathered to witness at the gates of Fort Benning.

School of Americas Watch--a national  grassroots coalition of
people of faith and conscience--gained court permission for the
annual vigil and commemorative funeral procession despite
difficulties in obtaining permits in the weeks following Sept. 11.
Mourners, shrouded in black and carrying coffins, led the
procession of thousands bearing white crosses inscribed with names
of victims who have died at the hands of SOA graduates. Filing past
the chain link fence erected across Ft. Benning's entrance, many
left memorials on and around the barrier.
For Ken Brown, professor of peace studies at Manchester College, it
was his fifth vigil at the training facility.

"Especially in the current mood of vengeance, the demonstration
gave voice to those people who seek another path," Brown said. "As
such, it became a celebration of their commitment to peace and
justice, a cry for life rather than the way of death."

Personal stories of Brethren who gathered at Fort Benning and
information about legislation calling for a closure of the school
are being gathered by the Church of the Brethren Washington Office
(202-546-3202 or Additional
resources are available at the SOA Watch website,

 8) Brethren bits: Other brief news notes from around the
denomination and elsewhere.
 *Alexandru Kirculescu and Sarah Krause, who had been working with
the Church of the Brethren Immigration and Refugee Program through
Emergency Response/Service Ministries, have both been offered
positions with Virginia Council of Churches Refugee Resettlement
Program (VCCRRP). VCCRRP will take over the Church of the Brethren
program as of Jan. 2. Kirculescu and Krause will continue working
from their current offices in New Windsor, Md.

 9) It all began one May weekend in 1999. Folk singer Joseph
Helfrich was at Southern Ohio's Woodland Altars camp to serve as
music leader for the denomination's national Young Adult
Conference. While listening to keynote speaker David Radcliff one
day, talking about the world's inequalities and injustice, Helfrich
felt his thoughts shaken.

"I was so overwhelmed," says Helfrich, who lives in Bradford, Ohio.
"I realized that I don't have problems, I have inconveniences--and
that's a big difference. . . . Not having enough food to live is a
problem. The things I was worrying about as problems are nothing."

At the end of the weekend, Radcliff had the participants write a
statement committing to help personally in some way. Helfrich
wasn't immediately certain what his response would be until a year
later at the 2000 Song & Story Fest in Iowa, when an idea struck.

"I had been looking for an excuse to make an album. That tends to
'legitimize' a singer," Helfrich says. "Right then and there, I
announced, 'I'm going to record next year.' " He wanted to give the
proceeds to help others. After talking with Radcliff again,
Helfrich settled on the General Board's Global Food Crisis Fund,
which Radcliff administers.

Another year and a half after that brainstorm in Iowa, the idea has
come to fruition. The finished album, titled "Make a Difference,"
is a recording made from a concert at the 2001 Song & Story Fest in
Maryland. It contains 18 selections of songs, poems, and stories.
Numerous instruments are used, and Brethren singers Lee Krahenbuhl,
Steve Kinzie, and Peg Lehman contribute guest voices.

"It has a wide variety of stuff," Helfrich says. Two of the songs,
including the title track, were created especially for the album.
The song "Make a Difference" includes some phrases from Emma
Lazarus' famous poem at the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired,
your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . ."

The album cover also includes some words from Helfrich about the
Global Food Crisis Fund and photos of its work around the world and
the people it serves. Helfrich says that's what excites him most.

"Everywhere I go, people can buy the album, and the word will go
out about Global Food," says Helfrich, who performs 150-200
concerts per year. "For a lot of people, that's a world they don't
know exists."

The album will be available via either cassette or CD from Brethren
Press the first week of January, at 800-441-3712 or Cost is $15 each. 

 10) Longtime Church of the Brethren leader Bob Faus died this past
year, but his legacy lives on quite visibly in Richmond, Ind.

When Bob, former Ministry director for the General Board, moved to
Richmond seven and a half years ago, he told his wife, Nancy, that
he wanted to become involved in Habitat For Humanity. Brethren
frequently volunteer with the non-profit organization, dedicated to
building quality housing for those who can't afford it.

Bob eventually became vice president of the local chapter, taking
on much of the work during a stretch when there was no president.
He led board meetings, wrote and published the chapter's
newsletter, and worked on many of the 18 houses built in recent
years on Richmond's southeast side.

"The Habitat board said he was their guiding light," Nancy recalls.
"They said if not for Bob, they would never have been able to build
as many houses as they had."

When Bob passed away, the chapter wanted to do something to
recognize his many contributions. The board finished buying a new
piece of property just weeks after his death, ad another 14 to 16
homes were slated to be built there.

On Sept. 22, the local Habitat group held the groundbreaking for
this new addition, which they have dedicated to Bob Faus. It is
being called the Robert Faus Addition, and the houses will stand
along Faus Place. Two of the new homes have already been built, and
two more are under way. Members of the Richmond Church of the
Brethren are helping with the project. The Habitat chapter plans to
continue building four new houses a year until the addition is

"It was wonderful," says Nancy, who spoke and helped break the
ground at the September ceremony. "There was a big crowd there . .
. maybe 200 people. It was a glorious celebration."


Newsline is produced by Walt Wiltschek, manager of news services
for the Church of the Brethren General Board, on the first, third,
and fifth Friday of each month, with other editions as needed.
Newsline stories may be reprinted provided that Newsline is cited
as the source. Marc Rittle and Nevin Dulabaum contributed to this

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