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Message from District Board and Cluster Ministers on COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Date:  February 6, 2021
To: Pastors, Lay Leaders and Congregations of Northern Plains District
From: Northern Plains District Board of Administration and Cluster Ministers
Re:  COVID-19 Pandemic

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).

We are filled with deep gratitude for the pastors, lay leaders, and congregations of the Northern Plains District, who have faithfully sought to share the good news of Jesus Christ throughout this pandemic.  You have found creative ways to gather and continue the work of Jesus—online and in person—ever mindful of the safety and health of your members.

Sometimes this has involved learning how to use new technology.  Sometimes this has required pivoting quickly to respond to an ever-changing situation.  Sometimes this has meant listening to and balancing different viewpoints.  Sometimes it has required making difficult and unpopular decisions.  Sometimes it has involved personal risk.  Always it has involved courage and innovation.  It has been a work of faith, a labor of love, an expression of hope.  And we give God thanks and continue to remember you in our prayers.

As the vaccine rollout continues, it can be tempting to relax the restrictions we have put in place to keep everyone safe and ensure that our faith communities don’t become super spreaders.  However, we encourage you to remain faithful in the call to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).  Please be mindful of the situation in your geographic area as you make decisions about next steps.  Pay attention to the numbers and whether the case count is rising, has leveled off, or is declining in your community.  Respect the recommendations of your state and local authorities regarding in-person gatherings and how best to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Continue adhering to what we know to be best practices regarding social distancing, wearing masks, and cleaning.

In addition, studies have shown that singing can contribute to spread.  If you are gathering in person and choosing to sing, please do so in ways that are limited and safe to minimize the risk.  We know this is difficult.  We long to gather in person.  We long to greet one another with a warm hug.  We long to share communal meals.  We long to “sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God” (Ephesians 5:19).  However, even as we cherish the glimmer of hope offered by the vaccine, we must remain diligent in our efforts to protect one another.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you…” (Hebrews 13:7).  COVID-19 has affected us all.  Pastors and church leaders have experienced the added weight/stress of making decisions (that affect many) about something they’ve never experienced before.  As we all seek to respond to continually changing circumstances, please be slow to criticize, quick to encourage, constant in prayer, and eager to extend grace to pastors, church leaders, and one another.  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

As we continue to make decisions about gathering together in person, let us discern together the timeless wisdom of scripture: “…Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).  “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).  “Love never gives up.  Loves cares more for others than for self.  Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.  Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.  Love never dies” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a; The Message).

Additional resources may be found at:
·         COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Church of the Brethren
·         Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | CDC
·         Resources on COVID-19 for Churches (nationalcouncilofchurches.us)
·         Iowa Department of Public Health – Protecting and Improving the Health of Iowans > Home
·         Minnesota Department of Health (state.mn.us)
·         Home (mt.gov).

Let us continue the work of Jesus through these challenging times, as we know you are doing, with an attitude of respect, courtesy, humility and love.  And may these guidelines help us continue as good stewards in containing the virus and deciding how and when we should meet in person.

Dave Kerkove, District Board President and Cluster Minister
davekerkove@gmail.com, 515-313-3705
Paul Shaver, District Moderator and Cluster Minister
repaul.ivestercob@gmail.com, 319-423-9034
Beth Cage, District Recording Secretary and Cluster Minister
bcage@hbcsc.net, 507-951-4532
Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive Minister
de@nplains.org, 641-485-5604

District News & Announcements – October 2020

District News & Announcements

October 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 October 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

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In this issue

  1. October is Pastor Appreciation Month
  2. Pastor’s Professional Growth Event
  3. Opposing Racism and Working for Racial Justice
  4. Continuing Education Opportunities
  5. Moderator Moment
  6. Holiness in our Midst
  7. Leadership Development Musings
  8. Rhonda Pittman Gingrich Signs On As CPL Program Director
  9. District Takes On Derecho Clean Up Through Brethren Disaster Ministry
  10. Dallas Center – Celebrating Heifer International
  11. Annual Conference moderator offers ‘Sabbath rest’ sermon for use by congregations
  12. Congregational Newsletters

Quick info

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

Banner photo: Flowers that were grown in the Camp Pine Lake garden over the summer.  CPL has partnered with the Eldora Community Garden and is donating all excess produce to the Pine Lake Food Shelf.  Photo by Betsy Kuecker.  Send in your photos for future newsletters!  Email communications@nplains.org.

District Conference Updates – Meeting Links and Videos

DISTRICT CONFERENCE 2020
July 31,  August 1 and 2, 2020
Moderator, Lucinda Douglas

One body together, helping each other!
Galatians 6:2     |     1 Corinthians 12: 12-31

 

District Conference Videos

New videos for district conference are now available using the links below and by going to our website – nplains.org/dc2020

Insight Session:
Frank Ramirez – Brethren in the Age of Pandemic: A century ago and today
If the video doesn’t play right away, click “open in browser”

Children’s Message – from the Haren family

 

Using Zoom to Participate in District Conference

The 2020 District Conference will use the interactive Zoom platform which allows a group of individuals to see and hear each other online much like Skype.  District Conference will also include pre-recorded videos posted on nplains.org/dc2020 and available to view by clicking their links.  There will be two worship services, an insight session, a play, and a children’s moment.

Download & Install Zoom: Zoom can be downloaded and installed easily and is available for Windows PC, MAC, iOS (Apple), Android, and Blackberry devices. Click the appropriate link below to download Zoom onto your device.

Practice Sessions: There are three practice sessions before District Conference for you to practice signing into a Zoom meeting and using this platform.  Everyone is strongly encouraged to participate in one or more of the following practice sessions:
July 28, 10:00 a.m. – Click here to join meeting
July 29, 1:00 p.m. – Click here to join meeting
July 30, 7:00 p.m. – Click here to join meeting

Main Sessions: 
July 31, 7:00 p.m., Worship – Find pre-recorded video at nplains.org/dc2020
July 31, 7:45 p.m., Fellowship after Friday Evening Worship  –  Click here to join meeting
August 1, 7:45 a.m., Business Session – Click here to join meeting
August 1, 12:45 p.m., Fellowship & Fun Time – Click here to join meeting
August 2, 8:45 a.m., Insight Session Discussion, – Click here to join meeting
August 2, 10:00 a.m., Worship – Find pre-recorded video at nplains.org/dc2020
August 2, 10:45 a.m., Fellowship after Sunday Morning Worship – Click here to join meeting

To join meetings with a cell phone or landline:
Phone In: +1 312 626 6799
Meeting ID: 870 2614 2909
Passcode: 807119

To join meetings with one tap mobile (for Smartphones):
+13126266799,,87026142909#,,,,,,0#,,807119#

If you need help, contact one of these tech support persons:
Tim Button-Harrison, de@nplains.org, 641-485-5604
Paul Shaver, revpaul.ivestercob@gmail.com, 319-423-9034
Hannah Button-Harrison, communications@nplains.org, 515-460-5365

If your connection to the meeting is lost, for whatever reason, just try connecting again.

Tips for Using Zoom

  • If you are using an external camera and/or microphone be sure to plug them in before opening the Zoom application.
  • Use a headset if possible.
  • Only 1 microphone and speaker system should be active per physical location to avoid feedback.
  • Mute yourself when you are not speaking. Once you are muted, press and hold the spacebar to speak (unless we are in a business session), release when finished.
  • Use the “Chat” feature to ask questions without interrupting the speaker. Or raise your hand in the “Participants” bar.
  • To view everyone in the video section (limited to 24 at one time on computer, less on tablets and iPads) press the “Gallery View” located in the upper right on a MAC or PC. (iPad swipe left to view other participants)
  • To change the view to “Speaker” (whoever is speaking) click in the same area to switch between Speaker and Gallery views.

 

Reminders Ahead of District Conference 2020

  1. The digital version of the District Conference Booklet is now available.  You can access it here.
  2. Please REGISTER for our VIRTUAL DISTRICT CONFERENCE at www.nplains.org/dc2020  or mail your registration form to District Conference Support, Ida Van Westen, 21284 Knauf Ave, Reading MN  56165.  Your registration ensures that we can provide info how to log-on to our YouTube worship services on Friday evening and Sunday morning and to join in our ZOOM business session and fellowship, fun/social gathering times.Online Registration – You can register here instead of using the packet

    District Payment Website – For donating and ordering printed DC booklets

  3. Registrations are due July 22.
  4. There is no charge to register for District Conference
  5. We will accept your offering/donation on the District website www.nplains.org/dc2020  or mailed to Financial Secretary, Rhonda Bingman, 820 Raven Lane, Madrid IA 50156
  6. WATCH THE WEBSITE AND YOUR EMAILS FOR ANY UPDATES AND FOR LOGIN INFORMATION YOU WILL NEED.
  7. Login practice times are listed in the schedule.  This is for you to learn how to use our YouTube and ZOOM platforms for our conference.
  8. For problems when logging on for conference, please contact:

    Hannah Button-Harrison: ph/text 515-460-5365 or communications@nplains.org

    Paul Shaver: ph/text 319-423-9034 or revpaul.ivestercob@gmail.com

    Tim Button-Harrison: ph/text 641-485-5604 or email de@nplains.org

***Stay tuned for an update next week with links to the Friday evening and Sunday morning worship services.***

Reminders Ahead of District Conference

Reminders Ahead of District Conference 2020

  1. The digital version of the District Conference Booklet is now available.  You can access it here.
  2. Please REGISTER for our VIRTUAL DISTRICT CONFERENCE at www.nplains.org/dc2020  or mail your registration form to District Conference Support, Ida Van Westen, 21284 Knauf Ave, Reading MN  56165.  Your registration ensures that we can provide info how to log-on to our YouTube worship services on Friday evening and Sunday morning and to join in our ZOOM business session and fellowship, fun/social gathering times.Full Registration Packet – To be printed, filled out, and sent by mail
    – Cover Letter
    – Registration Form
    – Schedule
    – Service Projects

    Online Registration – You can register here instead of using the packet

    District Payment Website – For donating and ordering printed DC booklets

  3. Registrations are due July 22.
  4. There is no charge to register for District Conference
  5. We will accept your offering/donation on the District website www.nplains.org/dc2020  or mailed to Financial Secretary, Rhonda Bingman, 820 Raven Lane, Madrid IA 50156
  6. WATCH THE WEBSITE AND YOUR EMAILS FOR ANY UPDATES AND FOR LOGIN INFORMATION YOU WILL NEED.
  7. Login practice times are listed in the schedule.  This is for you to learn how to use our YouTube and ZOOM platforms for our conference.
  8. For problems when logging on for conference, please contact:

    Hannah Button-Harrison: ph/text 515-460-5365 or communications@nplains.org

    Paul Shaver: ph/text 319-423-9034 or revpaul.ivestercob@gmail.com

    Tim Button-Harrison: ph/text 641-485-5604 or email de@npllains.org

DISTRICT CONFERENCE 2020
July 31,  August 1 and 2, 2020
Moderator, Lucinda Douglas
2020 THEME

One body together, helping each other!
Galatians 6:2     |     1 Corinthians 12: 12-31

** Watch the District web site www.nplains.org/dc2020  for some Children’s messages that you can share with your youngsters!

MODERATOR SERMON

Since she is unable to visit in person, our 2020 District Conference moderator, Lucinda Douglas, has recorded a sermon to share with all congregations in the district.  Please click the image above to view and share Lucinda’s message!

Online Worship and Resources

Church of the Brethren, Covid-19 Pandemic Response, listing financial resources and grants: https://covid19.brethren.org/

Bethany Theological Seminary, Ministering through Covid-19: https://bethanyseminary.edu/covid-19-resource-list/

Northern Plains District pastors and congregations, online worship and devotions.  Go to https://www.facebook.com/NorthernPlainsCoB/ and “like” the District’s page and check it periodically for updates.  Do the same with Facebook pages of our congregations:

COB@Ankeny

The Church on Northland (Cedar Rapids)

Dallas Center

Fairview

Hammond Avenue (Waterloo)

Hilcrest Baptist/Brethren (Fredericksburg)

Ivester

Iowa River

Lewiston

Libertyville

Living Peace (Sioux City)

Open Circle  (Burnsville)

Panora

Panther Creek

Peace  (Council Bluffs)

Pickwick  (Ottumwa)

Prairie City

South Waterloo

Denominational listing of congregations posting worship online:

http://www.brethren.org/news/2020/church-of-the-brethren-congregations-worship-online.html

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.

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

TO PRINT – go to browser view
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Mac: [Ctrl] + click + Print OR [Command] + P

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?

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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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.

TO PRINT – go to browser view
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