Posts by Communications

District News & Announcements – June 2020

District News & Announcements

June 2020

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by June 24th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

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Quick info

Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Masks made by Elizabeth Bechtol from the Church of the Brethren at Ankeny, for friends, family, and the community.  Photo taken by Elizabeth Bechtol.  Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Call to Prayer and Learning and Action

Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive
de@nplains.org

On May 25, in South Minneapolis, a 46 year old black man, George Floyd, who worked as a security guard, was arrested on suspicion of passing a $20 counterfeit bill, and after he was handcuffed, while being held in custody, several officers held him to the ground while one officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck for a period of nine minutes, restricting his air supply, as he repeatedly cried out “I can’t breathe” and as onlookers cried out on his behalf, and continued kneeling on his neck even after he became silent and lost consciousness.  The police reported that he died due to a “medical incident” in a “police interaction.”  But the truth was captured on video by the onlookers and shared on social media.  On May 26, people started gathering where this horrific event happened, organizations and officials began to denounce the police action, and by afternoon, the four arresting officers were fired, and by evening the protest had begun.  On May 29, Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder and manslaughter.

The killing of George Floyd is not an isolated incident but part of a larger history and cultural system of racial prejudice, fear, hatred, violence, injustice and inequity in our society.  Related events have recently occurred in Georgia where citizens acting as vigilantes killed Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was jogging, in New York’s Central Park where a racialized call was made to police concerning Christian Cooper, a black man who was bird-watching, and in Des Moines on May 16 when a black man, DarQuan Jones, was attacked and nearly killed in an incident being investigated as a racial hate crime, and the list of black bodies harmed and black lives lost goes on and on.  

Over the past week, from that place in South Minneapolis where Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd, protests and rallies have spread across the country.  The planned protests and rallies have been nonviolent, and in many cases, police and public officials have united with protesters to condemn racism and inappropriate police force.  In other places, nonviolent protests have been met with tear gas and rubber bullets, amplifying anger, frustration and despair, leading some to break windows and loot stores.  And while rally organizers have worked diligently to keep protests on message and nonviolent, young white male extremists (some are call them manarchists or simply white knuckleheads) have been leading out in property destruction to encourage rioting and discredit the protests.  It is a volatile mix and we need to be more quick to examine the root causes than we are to judge those who are expressing their anger, frustration and despair, hearing again the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said, “I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air.  Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots.  And in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.  And what is it that America has failed to hear…?”   (Listen to the speech here.)

The events of the past week are most certainly an urgent call to prayer, especially if prayer leads us to greater humility, listening, love, acknowledgement of wrongs, and commitment to repair those wrongs and do what is right.  This kind of prayer leads to hard work and change.  It has led me to change who I am primarily following and listening to.  In the past, almost all of my guides and teachers, those to whom I had granted authority to lead me, because I trusted their knowledge and experience in areas religious, theological, moral, academic and professional, where white people.  And for almost all of my life, my guides and teachers had been mostly white people.  I was certainly not deficient in having a white understanding of life.  But I was certainly deficient in understanding life from other points of view.  So I’ve dedicated myself to listen to and learn from and be guided by black and indigenous and latinx voices and leaders.   And I have done this not alone or in isolation, but in community and alongside many of you who are working to do the same, who are likewise adjusting your focus and attention.  With encouragement and support from some of you, I’ve become part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).   I decided to go on the 2019 Waterloo Freedom Bus ride from Iowa to Alabama, blacks and whites together, retracing the events and places of the Civil Rights Movement.  And I’ve become involved in the Poor People’s Campaign.   

I’ve had a basic understanding of the Black Civil Rights movement.  But five years ago, I couldn’t tell you much about some other things I now consider essential and required knowledge.  And I’m still just scratching the surface.  Here are some very important things I’ve learned about, or learned more about, just recently, and I’ve found some helpful links you can follow to go deeper in your own learning.  I’ve learned about the Doctrine of Discovery, West African slave fortresses, the Middle Passage, the developing American culture of white supremacy, the amassing of wealth in this nation from slave labor and seizure of lands from Native Americans, the life and work of Frederick Douglass, the events surrounding the mass hanging of 38 Dakota Indians in Mankato, MN, the rise and fall of Reconstruction after the Civil of War, the slavery loophole in the 13th amendment, Jim Crow laws, convict leasing, Ida B. Wells and her anti-lynching campaign, the coming together of former Union and Confederate soldiers in the US wars to annex Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, the racist aspects of those wars, and the rise in attacks on black communities by returning white soldiers after those and all subsequent wars, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the restoration of the Confederate flag and the erection of Confederate Memorials, the writings of W.E.B. DuBois, the flood of Northern advertising and media depicting African Americans as deficient, ridiculous and dangerous, “The Birth of the Nation” (the highest-grossing film of the silent movie era), the Great Migration, sundown towns, redlining, mass incarceration and the environmental justice movement.  I now understand these are some of the facts and realities we need to know and comprehend, particularly as white Christians in the U.S., if we want to truly understand where we are now, and how we got here, and where we can and need to go from here. 

There are other helpful resources.  The 2019 Ministers and District Board Workshop was on race and racism and led by Michaela Alphonse, Pastor of the Miami First Church of the Brethren and Josh Brockway, Church of the Brethren Director of Discipleship Ministries.  On May 31, Josh offered these recommendations:

There is also a great resource called “Talking About Race” that was just released by the National Museum of African American History.

Friends in Christ, I am committed to the deep prayer and learning and action that I believe we are being called to.  Will you pray and learn and work with me?

Holiness in our Midst: Session 93

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION XCIII: ON ‘ABSENT PARTICIPANTS’

Story Circle Prompt: Who is an ‘absent participant’ in your life right now?

First, the story behind this turn of phrase:

In my scrapbook (I call it my “Life Book”), is a write-up of my baby shower from the Nevada (IA) Journal. The headline reads: Pink Shower Courtesy for Janis Ellen Pyle. The event was held on the farm I grew up on, and hosted by our landlady, Innie Handsaker. The article goes into astonishing detail, like the favors being little dolls in cradle nut cups. The entertainment was baby contests, with winners named. I also learned the pink color scheme was carried out in the refreshments. This, too: “The gifts were wheeled in by the aunt Martha Wise, R.N., from Des Moines, dressed in uniform. The antique baby buggy, about 60 yeas old, was wrapped in pink tissue paper…” Of course, all 27 persons present were listed. 

And there is more! The article also listed the “absent participants,” those who were there “in spirit,” those who were invited and really, really wanted to be there, I presume, but who weren’t able to make it that day. “The buggy displayed many nice gifts for Baby Janis,” the article asserts, but the lasting gift from my baby shower has been the concept of “absent participants.” 

Through the years, when I have felt lonely or confused, I have tried to name the “absent participants” for that time and place. For example, my mother, who died of cancer when I was seven, was an “absent participant” while I faced the disease. I felt her comfort and spirit with me.

During this time of Covid, I draw upon the strength of my late maternal grandmother Bessie Albright (who was present at my baby shower!). She is an “absent participant,” not only because she herself survived the 1918 flu, but because she carried on so faithfully and thoughtfully through many life trials. She would be with me today, if she only could! Her example of hope and perseverance reminds me to live balanced days. On rainy days, she would say: “Today we have to make our own sunshine.”  In this time of uncertainty, she is with me in Spirit!

Who is an “absent participant” in your life?

 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, write about an “absent participant,” whose presence or memory was helpful in an uncertain or painful situation, even though the person was not physically present. 

 

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session XCIII.
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

Special Announcements Regarding District Conference, District Executive Renewal and Annual Conference

2020 NORTHERN PLAINS DISTRICT CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT

Our 2020 Northern Plains District Conference will NOT be meeting face to face at The Church on Northland, Cedar Rapids, IA, July 31 – August 2.  HOWEVER, we will still be gathering together on the same dates, through technology-based platforms, yet to be decided.   District Conference Planning Committee made this decision after conferring with the District Board.  The Committee is exploring how to provide a meaningful program of worship and business along with opportunities for fellowship, learning and giving.  Congregations should still select and register their voting delegates for the business meeting, noting that participation in the meeting will be through computer or telephone.  Those preparing reports for the Conference booklet should still send them to Ida Van Westen by May 15 for inclusion in the booklet.  The Planning Committee meets next on May 18 and will provide updates with additional information as it is available.  If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of the Planning Committee.

Ida Van Westen, Conference Support, dc-support@nplains.org, 507-478-4552

Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive, de@nplains.org, 641-485-5604

Lucinda Douglas, District Moderator, nightowl21@q.com, 712-204-8950

Paul Shaver, District Moderator-Elect, revpaul.ivestercob@gmail.com, 319-423-9034

Lois Grove, GROVE19@msn.com, 712-326-8266

Roger Peckover, rbpeckover@gmail.com, 507-429-9653

Chris Tobias, christobias71@gmail.com, 641-750-8169

Sue Bollinger, sbolli1004@aol.com, 507-251-0333

 


 

DISTRICT EXECUTIVE POSTPONING SABBATH RENEWAL

Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive, de@nplains.org

I had arranged three times periods for sabbath renewal this year, following denominational guidelines.  The first happened mid-February to mid-March. The second was scheduled for mid-May to mid-June.  Because of greater needs and concerns in the District due to the pandemic, in consultation with the District Board, I’ve decided to postpone the second time period until after District Conference.

 


 

ANNUAL CONFERENCE WILL NOT BE HELD THIS SUMMER

The Standing Committee of Annual Conference met today (May 7) and decided, with great sadness, to cancel the Annual Conference scheduled for July 1-5 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Read the full Brethren Newsline announcement here.

District News & Announcements – May 2020

District News & Announcements

May 2020

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by May 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

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Holiness in our Midst: Session 92

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION XCII: ON COMMUNION

Story Circle Prompt: Recall a memorable Communion service.

The Coronavirus has so upended my daily life that there is a clear dividing line (MSNBC Anchor Brian Williams calls it “a fence”) between life before the virus and life thereafter. Hence, I have a pre-virus answer in recalling a memorable Communion service and an after-virus one.

My B.V. (Before the Virus) answer might be titled The Milk of Human Kindness. It was a Sunday morning at LaSalle Street Church in downtown Chicago in the mid-Eighties. The church staff, known for living out its social justice mission, frequently invited national leaders. That morning, Pastor Bill Leslie had just introduced our guest, Christian author Walt Wangerin, one of my favorite storytellers. Suddenly, the door to the sanctuary opened and a disheveled woman carrying a brown paper shopping bag came down the center aisle, headed straight for the altar and placed a carton of milk next to the bread and “wine” (grape juice) set out for Communion. I was sitting on a pew next to the pulpit, having led a litany based on one of his stories. Being on the worship committee there had its perks: I had an unimpeded view of the congregants, who were looking around wildly and wondering how our speaker would handle the unusual situation. Rev. Wangerin, without missing a beat, lovingly welcomed the woman and wove the phrase, “the milk of human kindness and compassion,” into his talk several times. When Dr. Leslie blessed the elements for Communion that day, he also lifted the carton of milk to be blessed by God. During that Holy Communion, we all felt the barriers broken down between race, class and creed.   

My A.V. (After the Virus) answer might be titled Zoom Room Communion. First Christian Church in Ames began meeting through Zoom technology on March 15. In one of the first Zoom Room worship services, Pastor Mary Jane Button-Harrison reminded us about securing Communion elements. I grabbed Diet Cherry 7-Up and Anderson Erickson Raspberry Yogurt from my refrigerator before the formal service began. I was “prepared” for Communion, but not for the strong connections I felt as we shared “the bread and the cup” together. During that Communion, former Pastor David Digby wrote these words in the online Chat Room:

Communion in Covid, 

O’er the Waves of the Web, 

Unhindered by Space or Wall

Community in Christ, 

Celebrate we All. 

(Used by permission)

In announcing the first online service, Pastor Mary Jane wrote: “Let’s think of (utilizing technology) as an adventure in faith. We’ll all learn something in the process.” What I have learned from gathering online is the visceral realization that our church is not the building. Our church is our unshakeable bonds solidified through ongoing community service, companionable friendship and deep faith.

 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, recall a communion service. What made it memorable? 

 

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session XCII.
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – April 2020

District News & Announcements

April 2020

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by April 24th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Trouble viewing pictures and videos? 
Click here to view the newsletter in your browser.

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Holiness in our Midst: Session 91

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION XCI: ON THE CORONAVIRUS

Story Circle Prompt: How has the coronavirus affected your life?

It was on the first day of spring, March 20, 2020, that I understood what the Facebook philosophers and cable commentators meant as they said things like: “The good old days were two weeks ago,” and “Life will never again be the same.” Almost overnight, as the Coronavirus pandemic reached into my hometown of Nevada, IA, every aspect of my existence was altered.

My daily rounds, for instance. For years, I have merrily chit-chatted my way through the days, first enjoying breakfast with the regulars at local restaurants. As I live and breathe, I neighbor. (Yes, “neighbor” is a verb, meaningto associate in a neighborly way.” And the dictionary definition of “neighborly” is characteristic of a good neighbor, especially helpful, friendly, or kind.”). On that Friday, as I drove through town on my way to the bank, I was in a state of shock. Central Elementary School and the community school resource center were closed. The Nevada Public Library had this sign: STAY SAFE. WE ARE CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. The First United Methodist Church was closed. Its sign read: 9 AM SUNDAY: LIVESTREAM SERMON ON FACEBOOK. Downtown Nevada was a ghost town, except for restaurants serving take-out, and a few retailers. I reached Great Western Bank. The lobby was closed. The drive-through was open, but I needed to talk to a teller. On my way to Fareway for groceries, I drove by my hair salon, the Rusty Razor on Lincoln Way. There was a car out front, much to my relief, because I depend on Lorry to make me presentable enough to go out in public. (Unfortunately, the shop is now temporarily closed.) Fareway was open, a very good thing, though there was a sign by the carts that said: OUT OF WIPES…SORRY! I was able to stock up on supplies, an oasis of normalcy in my otherwise social desert. My first human contact of the day was with the young man who took my groceries to the car. “I guess there’s no place to go but home,” I said to make conversation.  “At least you don’t have to deal with toilet paper fiends,” he said, putting a positive spin on my social isolation. I smiled, silently blessing him for activating my inner funny during this personal trauma.

Since the initial shock, I’ve tried to adjust to the new normal. My church connections and community volunteer roles are lived out differently, as places of worship and non-profits close physical spaces. We at First Christian Church in Ames stay sweetly together through regular worship and prayer times on Zoom. On a recent Sunday, worshipping at home, my pastor suggested we use the elements at hand to participate in Communion. I chose a piece of slider bun and V-8 juice in the absence of unleavened bread and grape juice. Community organizations are also meeting through phone and computer links. Rightly, the instant historians have termed this new era, The Great Adaptation.

How has work changed for this culinary server at an assisted living center? Meals are now served in rooms rather than in the communal dining area. I’m a touchy-feely kind of person, suddenly thrust in a socially distanced workplace. I’m still a feely person, but without being able to offer service with a gentle physical touch. This is hard!

The virus has put a crimp in my style, but I still neighbor whenever I can. Others are doing the same, I note. I wave to persons cycling or walking their dogs. They wave back. Recently, I saw a pink sign with floral balloons. It said, “HONK! I AM 40 TODAY!” I honked.

“What are the gains from this time?” an astute friend asked. Upon reflection, I said that I find myself treating this time alone like a gift of a sabbatical. In the quiet and solitude, however enforced, I’ve come up with my list of essentials. I now know that I cannot live without work, family chats, church, social justice causes, friends, nature walks (I’ve noticed that birds have not yet enforced social distancing…), legal pads, black Flair pens, Chlorox wipes, toilet paper, newspapers (the paper kind), and M & Ms. What are your essentials?

 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, explore the following: Record on paper a day in your life since the pandemic. As an additional exercise: Remember on paper a day in your life before the current pandemic.

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session XCI.
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – March 2020

District News & Announcements

March 2020

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by March 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Trouble viewing pictures and videos? 
Click here to view the newsletter in your browser.

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In this issue

  1. In our Prayers: Todd Himlie (1958-2020)
  2. Panora Soup Luncheon: March 15 & Ecumenical Service: April 9
  3. Shawn Kirchner and the LA Master Chorale in Iowa City: March 28
  4. Jr. Youth Lock-in: March 28-29
  5. Camp Pine Lake: Cleanup Day: April 4, Call for Campers & Counselors
  6. Continuing Education Courses
  7. Nurture Commission Announcement: Youth and Young Adult Scholarships
  8. District Conference 2020 Updates
  9. Message from the Moderator
  10. Holiness in our Midst – On Small Groups
  11. Leadership Development Musings
  12. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: South Waterloo Church serves monthly at Waterloo Salvation Army.  Photo taken by Diane Sittig. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 90

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION XC: ON SMALL GROUPS

Story Circle Prompt: What small groups energize or enhance your current life?

Because this question comes to me as I’m taking inventory of my life, something I do every Ash Wednesday, it takes on more seriousness. Today happens to be the first day of Lent, Feb. 26, 2020. This year, as a Lenten focus, it seems a worthwhile endeavor to prayerfully name and reflect on the groups that enrich my life. 

First, I note that Jesus himself was an aficionado of small groups: calling together disciples; dining frequently with Mary, Martha and Lazarus; and hanging out with raucous and fun-loving bands of outcastes. Thus, the holy significance of small groups is reinforced in my mind.

Next, I pause to review my first experience with small groups. Circles of belonging have enriched and informed my days, ever since I was part of a cell group at LaSalle Street Church in downtown Chicago in the early Eighties. Several of us met every Tuesday evening for over three years. There I began a life-long friendship with my friend Linda. She and I have checked in with each other every Ash Wednesday for more than 30 years. (In fact, I contacted her this morning…) I remember other life-enhancing small groups, including hunger and housing coalitions and collaborations, spiritual growth gatherings and Sunday school classes, and college and special interest courses.

Today, I am energized and fed by less formal but still valuable small groups:

 

  • My work team is a source of quiet emotional support in a physically demanding environment. I am a culinary server at an assisted living center several evenings a week.
  • Beginning many mornings by reading my newspapers, eating my breakfast special, and conversing with the waitresses and the other patrons makes me a regular at Niland’s Café in Colo, IA.
  • I help create events as a co-leader of the Women’s Gathering at First Christian Church in Ames, IA.
  • A collaboration of faith groups bands together to provide emergency food, rent, and gas to those in need. I am on the Board of Directors of this non-profit called Good Neighbor in Ames.
  • As many Saturday mornings as possible, I am part of the neighborly Cambridge Coffee Club at the Cambridge (IA) Public Library. Community members of all political stripes gather to share about the books we’ve been reading. Like a book-centered adult show and tell!

 

In the naming, I realize I often take for granted these sweet sources of support and my circle of significant friends/family who also soften the bumps and bruises of everyday living. Instead of eating more leafy vegetables or consuming less chocolate this Lenten season, I believe I’ll concentrate on strengthening these ties the next 40 days. I think Jesus would be pleased. 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, explore the following: Remember a small group that enhanced your life. When were you involved? How did it energize you? Is it ongoing? 

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session XC.
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.