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District News & Announcements – December 2017

District News & Announcements

December 2017

 “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 December 29th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 63

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXIII: ON QUAKER QUESTIONS

Writer’s note: The “Four Quaker Questions” are frequently-used ice-breakers in small groups. They are: 1) Where did you live between the ages of 7 and 12? 2) How did you heat your home then? 3) What or who was the center of human warmth in your family? Why? 4) When, if ever, did God become more than a mere word to you? If you ask participants these questions in a group setting, leave plenty of time for answers, because they call forth deep and strong emotions.

Following is my answer to Questions 3:

The center of warmth in my family between 7 and 12 was the family table each evening in Urbandale, IA, a suburb of Des Moines. Days were hectic with work and school, but at supper time we slowed down. We shared stories from our daily lives while savoring tasty meals. (The recipes were from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook.) My father had remarried the year I was 9. My siblings, Jill, 5, Jerry, 8, and Janet, 13, and I were still coming to grips with the death of our mother two years earlier. In addition to moving from a farm setting, we acquired overnight a step mother, an older step brother, Arthur, who had just joined the Navy, and a step sister, Jean, who was in high school. Adjustments were required on all our parts, but our blended family came together with love and laughter as we passed around the spare ribs or pork chop casserole. On Sundays, we had pot roast that simmered in the oven while we were at church. When we got home, we added carrots, potatoes and onions while we changed clothes and anticipated another family time of togetherness. A testimony to our shared meals is the fact that the family table is still important to each of us as a symbol of security in our lives.

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Ask the group to answer one or more of the four Quaker Questions.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write expanded answers to the four Quaker Questions as an exercise in self-understanding.

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXIII.  
  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 – November 2017

District News & Announcements

November 2017

 “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 November 24th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

Healthy and Safe Congregations Training November 10-11, 2017 at Camp Pine Lake

Registration is still available for the Creating Safe Congregations training on November 10-11 at Camp Pine Lake. The District Board has very generously agreed to underwrite the costs of this training for all attendees, including registration, lodging at the camp, meals and transportation. We are delighted to have Kathy Reid as the presenter. Kathy, who is ordained in the Church of the Brethren, brings years of experience and competency in this area.

The training will be comprised of three sessions:

Session I – Definitions and Research – the prevalence of violence within families, dynamics of power and control, warning signs of abuse, how to identity potential abusers.

Session II – Prevention Policies and Practices – what to do if we suspect abuse, reporting laws, confidentiality, best practices for congregations.

Session III – After the Incident – caring for the church community, harmful beliefs, being proactive, spiritual crisis care for survivors.

You may register for the training online here.

Or you may download a mail in form here.

CEU credits for pastors will be available for $10, with checks made out to Brethren Academy. Those who prefer a hotel may stay at their own cost at the Americaninn in Grundy Center, Iowa.

The training will begin with dinner at 6:00 on Friday evening and end at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon. Pastors, church board members, Christian education workers, youth advisors and concerned adults, are all encouraged to participate in this important training. Please register today!

Holiness in our Midst: Session 62

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXII: ON CAMP

Did you ever come away from a week at camp with significant life experiences or new understandings?

For myself, I can trace back to a week at church camp three new understandings about God and my place in the world. Each one built upon the others. I was 12 the summer that the boys and girls from my church, Highland Park Presbyterian in Des Moines, convened at the YMCA Camp in Boone. My first new understanding was that the world belongs to God not me. That meant: God invited me into this world; I didn’t just happen. I can trace this learning back to the hymn that was our theme. The words to “This is My Father’s World” were printed on signs, line by line, along the main trail. Amid the old-growth beauty of the camp, I believed into my being these words:

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

My second understanding came at the closing bonfire, in which we gave our whole selves and lives to Jesus. This was preceded by a dramatic ceremonial burning of pieces of paper in which we had written our failures and sins. We were to be given a fresh start in our new lives! Having just come into consciousness about it being God’s world, I added the thought: that I was brought into this scene for purpose. And I had just asked to be connected to that purpose!

My third understanding came from being given “Quiet Time,” something new to me. Our recently-blended family left me sleeping in a bedroom with two sisters. I lived in a crowded house without my own space. At camp, we were asked to go out in the woods and be alone with our Bible and nature and, the counselor said, to be alone with God! Before I would learn to hear Him as an “inner voice,” I began experiencing Him in the natural world, as I read these words along the trail:

This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair:

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;

He speaks to me everywhere.

I took away a lot from church camp. The God who had created the Heavens had invited me to be on Earth. I had asked Him to reveal His purpose and believed He would. And through the practice of Quiet Time, I was convinced He was know-able on a personal level. It was heady stuff for a pre-teen! My spiritual formation began there in the woods. It continues (with less sexist language, of course!) but with the same basics at the core that I brought back along with my craft projects and sunburn.

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Recall significant life experiences or new understandings from camp.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write about what you brought home from a stay at camp. Was it a significant life experience? New understandings? Where was the camp? How old were you? Are you influenced still by camp memories or learnings? How?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXII.  
  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 – October 2017

October 2017 Banner

District News & Announcements

October 2017

 “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.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

In this issue

  1. BVS Visit and Dinner at Stover Church: October 5th
  2. Southeast Cluster Spiritual Renewal: Oct. 8-11
  3. Ventures Course on Interfaith Cooperation: October 14th
  4. Building Centennial at Prairie City COB: Oct. 14-15
  5. Fall Women’s Retreat – October 20th & 21st
  6. Disaster Ministries Work Trip: Oct. 29 – Nov. 4
  7. Healthy and Safe Congregations Training: Nov. 10-11
  8. Ivester Lasagna Meal: Nov. 12
  9. Message from the Moderator
  10. Holiness in our Midst
  11. Leadership Development Musings
  12. Fairview Float Wins First Prize
  13. 2018 Annual Conference Nominations
  14. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Beautiful sunset and smiles at the campfire hosted by Merlin Grady in observation of the International Day of Prayer for Peace.  Photo by Diane Sittig. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

District News & Announcements – September 2017

District News & Announcements

September 2017

 “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 September 24th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

In this issue

  1. District Conference Review
  2. District Board Reorganizes for 2017-2018
  3. Camp News
  4. New Ventures season to begin September 16
  5. Southeast Iowa Spiritual Renewal Circuit Ride
  6. Building Centennial at Prairie City Church of the Brethren
  7. Fall Women’s Retreat – October 20th & 21st
  8. Healthy and Safe Congregations Training
  9. Message from the Moderator
  10. Holiness in our Midst – On Learning You Are Not Alone
  11. Leadership Development Musings
  12. NCP 2018 Learning Tours
  13. Michael Himlie to Serve with Christian Peacemakers
  14. Hurricane Harvey: Brethren Disaster Ministries Update
  15. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info

Banner photo: Cluster gathering of the Sheldon, Sioux and Worthington churches hosted by the Sheldon church at the Lutheran Bible Camp on West Okoboji Lake. Photo by Alan Cox. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 60

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LX: ON LEARNING YOU ARE NOT ALONE

When did I learn that I was not alone in a difficult situation? The moment I followed up on the breast pain I had been experiencing. In late June, I asked Dawn, a gentle nurse practitioner/midwife from my church, First Christian Church in Ames, if she could guide me into the medical system to check out my concerns. As I write this, nine weeks later, on Aug. 28, I realize that because of her and her equally kind midwife colleague Alice, I have literally not been alone throughout 15 invasive diagnostic tests, a breast cancer diagnosis, two outpatient surgeries, and, so far, four daunting chemotherapy treatments. Did I mention that I am deathly afraid of all needles? Between them, these two angels in human skin have sat beside me, including today’s chemo treatment. Alice was there with me knitting a lavender baby sweater; her presence softened the blow when I learned my 16-week chemo schedule was extended to 20 weeks. After the 5-1/2-hour lab regimen/treatment was over, she invited me out to her acreage for a late lunch, created from her garden vegetables. And she sent me home with the leftovers!

To ease the difficulty of this long journey, my church and pastoral community have offered spiritual comfort and perspective. My family has been kind and ready to respond to my needs. My friends have shared their prayers and well wishes through heartfelt cards, long letters, restaurant meals, household items, and sweet personalized gifts. One recent Saturday, my friend Tammy, a teacher from suburban Des Moines, cleaned my bedroom and washed my accumulated dishes (confession: there was mold involved!) This was after delivering meals and before taking me out to lunch. “I’m coming every two weeks to do whatever you need. I love to clean!” she says. Out in the community, everyone from the convenience store manager (“How are you today?”) wishes me well. I can’t hide the fact that my cute new hat covers a shaved head. Shopkeepers, bank tellers and even strangers tell me of loved ones who are on the same journey.

The degree to which my workplace has been supportive has astounded me. I report to a human resources specialist who is open about her recent bout with cancer. With fierce dedication, she is helping me understand the ins-and-outs of chemotherapy and navigate the business/insurance end of the experience. The workplace adapted my schedule so that I have missed only a handful of days. Over the weekend, I learned that two co-workers, Michelle and Missy, shaved their heads to stand in solidarity. I have cried more tears from being overwhelmed by the goodness of persons than I have from the life-altering shock of the diagnosis or the extreme indignities and midnight pain of the process.

There is much to face ahead, but I enter each day with a positive attitude. Thanks to advances in modern medicine and the sheer outpouring of love, I often find myself giving back, assuring others that neither are they alone in whatever they are facing.

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Share about a time when you learned you were not alone in a difficult situation.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write about a time when you learned you were not alone in a situation. Where were you? What was happening? What difference did support and understanding make?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LX.  
  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 – August 2017

District News & Announcements

August 2017

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

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

In this issue

  1. District Conference: August 4-6 2017, South Waterloo COB
  2. Church Development and Renewal Retreat: August 25-26
  3. Continuing Education Opportunities 
  4. In Our Prayers
  5. Ways for Congregations to Support Our Ministers
  6. Work Camp Reflection: Baltimore, Maryland
  7. News from the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Taskforce
  8. Holiness in our Midst – On Pets
  9. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: South Waterloo’s Ice Cream Social at a local park, held the third Wednesday of every month for the church and the community.  Pictured: Hinsene Roba and JJ Inyani.   Photo by Barb Miller. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 59

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LVIV: ON PETS

Do you have a pet story? When I think about a special relationship with a pet, Thomas T. (for “The”) Cat comes to mind. His whole hyphenated name was: Thomas-The-Cat-Who-Taught-Me-A Cat-Curmudgeon-To-At-Least-Appreciate-All-Cats. His nickname was “Tommy.”

In 1988, Thomas T. Cat had already taken up residence on the family farm when I moved there from downtown Chicago to care for my grandmother and Sadie, a lovely woman who had always lived with my grandparents as a companion. I had always been indifferent to cats (dogs, too!) until he positioned himself, politely and thoughtfully, along my path. When I went outside to do chores or walk the fields, he never left my side. He was probably a housecat who got lost. For certain, he wasn’t like the skittish barn cats, who caught mice and lived in the outbuildings. He thought he was a puppy dog. He was, in fact, so docile and trusting that I told people that we probably could play “catch” with him; I was sure he would just role up in a ball, cooperate and think it fun. (We never tried this, nor wanted to, but you get the picture.) As a person prone to ponder, I often needed to sit on the farmhouse porch steps to just think. Then he would drape his rusty-orange and white body over my knee, and sit there for an hour with his face five inches from mine. He insisted on eye contact. He liked stories, too. So, I would tell him things out loud: how I sometimes missed such things as jazz and deep-dish pizza. How I was uncertain about my family’s future after grandma passed away and the farm was sold. How I was ever so worried about how I would make a living when my work here was complete. How crazy different my farm life was from my city life.  (I had lived in Chicago for more than 12 years.) He was non-judgmental and kind, the best kind of Listener. His role was caregiver/companion to me, as I tended to my grandmother during her last days. Gradually, I understood how persons could get all worked up over pets. “’Tommy’ loves you,” my grandmother said. She was right. He looked out for me, and I gladly returned the favor.

One autumn day, a hunter trespassed on the farm, and his dogs attacked Thomas T. Cat. Sadie screamed, “Tommy got pounced!” Sure enough, he lay bleeding and whimpering, making a little bed for himself in the ferns on the north side of the farmhouse. He let me sponge him off. I wrapped him in old towels. I cooked (flavored) oatmeal for him, brought him milk three times a day, and nursed him back to health. He made a good comeback, but he was no longer able to follow me around. Still, he found me whenever I needed to talk about what was really on my mind.

It was Thomas T. Cat who stopped me from making a mistake that would have had family repercussions for generations. A few months after he was hurt, I spent a week in Chicago, walking in Lincoln Park, enjoying the lakefront, eating out at my old haunts. The pull to go back to the sweet familiarity of Chicago was so great that my friends and I began thinking of ways that I could curtail my family farm time, somehow graciously making an early exit. Back in Iowa, my plans became clearer. One morning I went on a walk toward the fields specifically to plan my get-away, to plot how to tell my grandmother that I could no longer sustain my full-time caregiver role. I was just starting down the lane, when a heard a loud, “MEOW!” Thomas T. Cat had followed me. He indicated to me, Lassie-like, that I should turn around and follow him, so I did. I swear that what I witnessed next is true. He stopped at the clearing next to the back door. He had herded all of cats on the farmstead in one spot, many I had never seen. It was as if they were posing for a family portrait. They were in four groupings, each with a mother and father, and their kittens. Perhaps 20 cats, in all. Thomas took his place with his “family.” They (and I) stood stock still for perhaps two or three minutes, facing each other. It was one of the holiest moments of my life. I ran upstairs to get my camera, but they had scattered by the time I came back down. Thomas T. Cat had made his point. His message: What will happen to me, to us, if you go to Chicago? Who will feed us? Who will care for us? Your caring has extended beyond your family to the animal Kingdom. Your reach extends beyond what you can see right now. Please stay. Epilogue: Thomas won the day. I never mentioned the subject of leaving with my family or this “happening.” I went back into the house that day and said, “Maybe we need to put out a little more cat food each night.” I stayed the caregiving course for three more years. After my grandmother died and the family farm was sold, I cared for Sadie in my home until she passed away.

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Do you have a pet story? Share about a special relationship with a pet.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.

  2. Write a reflection on a special relationship with a pet. How did the animal come into your life? How was your life changed?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

     1.   Read aloud Session LVIV.

     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.