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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.

District News & Announcements – July 2017

July 2017 Banner

 

District News & Announcements

July 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 July 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.

District News & Announcements – June 2017

June 2017 Banner

 

District News & Announcements

June 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 June 24th 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. Lucinda Douglas Joins the Migrant Trail Walk
  2. Camp Pine Lake Registration & Staff Announcements
  3. Youth and Young Adult Conferences
  4. Church Anniversary Celebrations
  5. District Conference Registration and Service Projects
  6. Message from the Moderator
  7. Leadership Development Musings
  8. Holiness in our Midst
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: David Radcliff (standing far right) shared of his work with New Community Project during worship with Common Spirit Fellowship on April 30th. Photo by Brad Kirschenheiter. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 58

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LVIII: ON CITIES

What is your favorite city? Mine would have to be Chicago, where I spent 14 years on the Near North Side in the Seventies and Eighties. I lived where the action was in a time of spiritual renewal. Six blocks to downtown. One block to Oak Street Beach. Four blocks to my church home, Fourth Presbyterian Church, across from the Hancock Building on Michigan Avenue. Twelve blocks to Lincoln Park. Something in my secret soul was satisfied by the sweep of skyscrapers along the horizon, the multi-lingual diversity of the neighborhoods, and the constant wind blowing sweet with the sounds of street jazz musicians. Where else but Lincoln Park Zoo could I shiver and sing Christmas carols to the animals and then warm up over hot chocolate at the Lion House? I often visit Chicago in my imagination: its tasty restaurants, world-class museums, architectural landmarks, and musical venues, especially the Old Town School of Folk Music. I go for long walks, hearing the waves off Lake Michigan mixed with the honking of horns on nearby Lake Shore Drive, and delight in the magnificent ever-changing cityscapes.

It strengthens me whenever I remember how such deep religious and ethnic differences enhanced rather than divided us there. It was in Chicago that I learned from social justice leaders about how to be with persons in poverty as equals. Jeremiah 29:7 (NIV) reads: “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” While I was in exile, I tasted true community, along with the heavenly flavors of Uno’s (deep dish) Pizza! I’m more prepared to persevere in these trying political times because of my years in this good city.

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: What city are you drawn to? Why?

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write a reflection on a city you like to visit. Why is it special to you?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

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

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our Midst: Sharing 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.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 57

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LVII: ON BIBLICAL CHARACTERS

What Biblical character do you draw inspiration or courage from? How? Why? As for me, I draw courage from the example of Mary, who sat listening and learning from Jesus, instead of being the perfect hostess like her sister Martha. This is the text:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 New International Version (NIV)

As a modern-day contemplative in a world that values “busyness,” and “getting down to business,” I identify with Mary’s need to work at understanding life rather than work at mastering life’s tasks. Her example, upheld by Jesus Himself, frees me to be my better, deeper self.

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: With what Biblical character do you most identify? Why?

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write a reflection on your most inspirational Biblical character. What did you learn about yourself?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

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

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our Midst: Sharing 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 – May 2017

District News & Announcements

May 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 May 15th 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.

Banner photo: Current and former members of Root River Church of the Brethren after the congregation’s closing service on April 22, 2017.  Photo taken by Tim Button-Harrison. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 56

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LVI: ON FAMILY VACATIONS

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Where was your family’s favorite vacation spot? What memories still delight you?

I was five when I was first tucked into a life jacket, helped down into a motor boat, handed a fishing pole with a little red-and-white bobber, and told to be patient. I didn’t have to wait long! A big fish found the minnow on the hook that Dad had shown me how to bait! That year we were at Sunset View Lodge on Leech Lake. I was hooked from the start on family vacations spent at various northern Minnesota resorts. Each June, until I graduated from high school, we spent a week in a rustic cabin fishing, swimming, sun-tanning on the beach, and just plain leaving our work and school routines behind. Truth be told, we also had our vacation routines, but they were of our choosing. We were too busy to bicker, awakening before dawn and grabbing our fishing poles to get a head start out to our secret fishing hole. Floating along an island, we experienced together the sun slowly rising over the lake. Moments of pure quiet were punctuated by cries of “I GOT ONE!” Most suppers, we feasted on Yellow Perch, Northern Pike and Walleye, dipped in cornmeal batter and fried to golden perfection. Some afternoons, we read books or played games at The Lodge and spent our saved-up allowances on snacks of ice cream bars and root beers. On rainy days, we would pile in the car and travel to nearby Bemidji to visit the Paul Bunyan statue. We smiled big as we got our pictures taken with our superhero. Our parents would shop at the famous Bemidji Woolen Mills and purchase red plaid jackets for fall. On other outings, we would drink in the beauty of the pine and birch trees of the Chippewa National Forest or visit Itaska State Park and dip our toes into the headwaters of the Mississippi River. We returned home refreshed, with a freezer chest full of fish to last us until the next year…

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write about your family’s favorite vacation spot. Can you still return to the same place?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

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

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our Midst: Sharing 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 2017

District News & Announcements

April 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 April 24th 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. New Camp Pine Lake Director
  2. Fairview Reads Through the Bible in 2017
  3. Root River Closing Service
  4. Stover Music Festival
  5. Youth and Young Adult Conferences
  6. Church Anniversary Celebrations
  7. District Conference Announcements
  8. Message from the Moderator
  9. Leadership Development Musings
  10. Holiness in our Midst
  11. District Executive Coverage during May
  12. District Witness Commission Projects
  13. April Ventures Courses
  14. Panther Creek Handbell Choir & Italian Supper
  15. In Our Prayers: God is Doing a New Thing in Ottumwa
  16. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: A Prayer Center from the Ministers retreat this March. Photo credit Barbara Wise Lewczak. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 55

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LV: ON HOSPITALITY

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Remember a time when you extended or received exceptional hospitality.

Our 12-person Church of the Brethren Faith Expedition was welcomed in unforgettable fashion in southern Sudan (now South Sudan) in February of 2002. Hospitality was refined to an art form by the Sudanese.

They welcomed us with open arms. Ours was the first North American group to visit the Anglican compound of Rokon. Men, women and children, in their finest dress, lined the roadside for miles, straining for the sight of our Land Rover. As we approached, the women trilled a greeting for us, then danced and sang for us. The school children had learned a song in English: “We are so happy to see you.”

They remembered our names. The women formed a receiving line and asked each of us our names. Four days later, without prompting, one woman came to me and said, “Jan-eese, thank you for coming and visiting us in our desperate plight. We knew you would come.” She had remembered my name! Had I done as well? No.

They practiced sacrificial generosity. This compound went without enough food for a week—and gladly!—so that we might be given a banquet. They gave from their substance, not their abundance. It wasn’t the fatted calf they served; it was the skinny goat running around the day before. On that trip, I learned to never refuse food prepared with love. Yes, even goat! In a drought-stricken land, from a people pummeled by war, I understood that I was the one who was spiritually impoverished, in dire need of their true hospitality.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write about your extended or received exceptional hospitality.

FOR GROUP STUDY:

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

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our Midst: Sharing 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.