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District News & Announcements – November 2019

District News & Announcements

November 2019

“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.

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

Holiness in our Midst: Session 86

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXXXVI: ON ‘SHOW AND TELL’

Story Circle Prompt: What would you bring to “Show and Tell” today? 

Sydni, the activities director at the assisted living center where I work, recently revived a kindergarten staple. She added “Show and Tell” to her schedule of events, much to the delight of the residents. Among the items shown, she said, were a 15-foot snakeskin; a birdhouse made of wood from an old building; an alligator head; a pin from Ireland; and a digital photo frame. Things created by the residents included a poem, painted home-grown gourds; and a rosemaling board. 

The excitement of the residents sharing their special items prompts me to consider what I would “Show and Tell” today. The item that comes to mind is a lapel pin given to me by my friend Tammy. It is about 1-1/2 inches square. The word hope is written in script on a sky-blue background; a pink butterfly rests on top of the word. I wore the pin the last two years during cancer treatments. Hope—in the form of friends and family; gifts large and small; and advanced medical science—saw me through 15 invasive diagnostic tests, 12 weeks of chemo, a major surgery, three outpatient procedures, 25 days straight days of radiation, two hospitalizations for side effects from chemo, and one hospitalization for radiation burns. And, did I mention, four blood transfusions? Thanks to that hope, I am currently diagnosed as N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease.) I still wear my “hope pin” whenever I am facing an unresolved issue or unanswered question. Wearing it serves as a reminder that hope can win the day, no matter how dark the future looms.

 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the question: What would you share at “Show and Tell” today? What is the story behind your offering?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXXXVI.
  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 2019

District News & Announcements

October 2019

“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.

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

In this issue

  1. Tree-o Concert at Camp Pine Lake: Oct. 12
  2. Fall Women’s Retreat: Oct. 18 & 19
  3. Trunk or Treat at Ankeny COB: Oct. 29
  4. Upcoming Continuing Ed. Courses
  5. Message from the Moderator
  6. Holiness in our Midst
  7. Leadership Development Musings
  8. District Seeking New Treasurer
  9. Milestones in Ministry and Congregational Life
  10. SE Iowa Spiritual Renewal Circuit Ride
  11. Gordon Oliver Retires as Libertyville’s Pastor
  12. Save the Date! – Trip to Heifer International headquarters in 2020
  13. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Special guest Michaela Alphonse leads an insight session at The Church on Northland during District Conference in August.  Photo by Hannah Button-Harrison. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 85

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXXXV: ON (HOLY) GOOSE BUMPS

Story Circle Prompt: When was the last time you got goose bumps from being awe-inspired?

At the Iowa State Fair in August 2019, I got multiple cases of the kind of goose bumps that don’t originate from the cold. (My friend Heather, like many others, calls them “God Bumps”!) I was with my friend Alice. As we viewed exhibits—fabric arts, oil paintings, water colors, preserves and canned goods, and photographs —she asked which entries I liked best in each category. I used the “goose bumps” test to gauge my answers. (My choices didn’t always align with the entries sporting blue ribbons.) When we participated in the hymn sing at the church on the fairgrounds, I got goosebumps when a woman sang descant on “Amazing Grace!”

To me, getting all prickly, is a signal that God is near and guiding me to the idiosyncratic experiences, people and things meant for me. I take notice! 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the question: What gives me “God Bumps”?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXXXV.
  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 – September 2019

District News & Announcements

September 2019

“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. 2019 District Conference Recap
  2. Message from the (new) Moderator
  3. Anniversary Celebrations: Panther Creek, Libertyville, Open Circle
  4. Ministers Retreat (Sept. 19-20) and Ethics Training (Sept. 21)
  5. Marshalltown Disaster Recovery Work Trip Sept. 22-27
  6. SE IA Spiritual Renewal Circuit Ride:  Sept. 22-25
  7. Fall Women’s Retreat: Oct. 18 & 19
  8. Upcoming Continuing Ed. Courses
  9. Holiness in our Midst
  10. Leadership Development Musings
  11. Diane & Ron Mason to Move: District Seeking New Treasurer
  12. Area 5 Cluster Gathering
  13. Iowa River Church Participates in Iowa Strong Field Day
  14. Board Reorganization
  15. Save the Date! – Trip to Heifer International headquarters in 2020
  16. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Pastor David Kerkove stands in the water during an outdoor baptism for the South Waterloo congregation on August 11th.  Photo by Barb Miller. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 84

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXXXIV: ON LIFE-CHANGING SERMONS

Story Circle Prompt: What was the message in a life-changing sermon? Describe your transformation.

Wonder of wonders, I was on the worship team at LaSalle Street Church in downtown Chicago in the mid-Eighties! Sixty members were employed in the arts, many of whom volunteered their design, dance, writing, photography and music skills to enhance our worship services. We painted backdrops, wrote original litanies, choreographed liturgical dance numbers, designed bulletin covers and performed original music. At the same time, I was part of a LaSalle cell group that met every Tuesday evening in homes. It was a heady time to be a churchgoer!
The pastor was Dr. William “Bill” Leslie, a social justice advocate and deep thinker. He was fond of pointing out God’s preferential heart for the poor and often quoted the exact number of times the poor were referenced in the Bible (more than 400, as I remember).

The sermon text the morning that he preached a life-changing sermon was Mark 10:17-27. He reviewed the story of the rich young ruler:
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is[b] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” New International Version (NIV)
Pastor Bill asserted that most of us weren’t rich enough to relate to the story of the rich young ruler, then asked this question: What is the equivalent of great wealth in your life? What is Jesus asking you to give up in order to follow him completely?

The answer for me was” RECOGNITION. The minute Pastor Bill asked this question, it was like the word was written in red letters across the sanctuary in front of me. I had only wanted to be involved in projects or work where I was in a lead role or received credit and accolades. From that moment on, I vowed to listen for the Lord’s guidance each day, regardless of whether the project or assignment was big or small. I began doing tasks for the sake of others’ glory, instead of volunteering only where I was in a lead role. I became satisfied to “go about doing good,” whether it was licking stamps, photocopying reams of paper, making cookies or leading campaigns. That small change made a huge difference. Not only did I learn new skills, I gained appreciation for the richness of authentic team efforts. I would discover that I cannot exist without affirmation, but if no feedback comes to me, I am satisfied that God sees my efforts. That has been enough “recognition” to happily carry on each day.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:
1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, remember a life-altering sermon. Who was the pastor? Where were you? How was your life changed by the message?

FOR GROUP STUDY:
1. Read aloud Session LXXXIV.
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 2019

District News & Announcements

August 2019

“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, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

In this issue

  1. District Conference is Here!
  2. Witness Service Projects
  3. CPL – Outdoor Movie August 9th, All Ages Camp Aug. 31-Sept. 1
  4. Looking for Stories and Pictures of Camp Pine Lake
  5. 2019 NOAC Scholarship
  6. Ministers Retreat (Sept. 19-20) and Ethics Training (Sept. 21)
  7. Marshalltown Disaster Recovery Work Trip Sept. 22-27
  8. Upcoming Online Brethren Academy Courses
  9. Holiness in our Midst
  10. Leadership Development Musings
  11. Brethren Reaffirm Opposition to Death Penalty
  12. Peace Church Bench and Little Free Library Dedication
  13. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Common Spirit Fellowship gathered to welcome and dedicate Carolyn Fern Kirschenheiter on July 14, 2019.  Photo by Nicole Blissenbach. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 83

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXXXIII: ON TURNING LEMONS INTO LEMONADE

Story Circle Prompt: Share an example of turning lemons into lemonade.

One afternoon in May of 2003, as I was riding through mountains near the southwestern coast of the Dominican Republic, I heard how a whole community turned lemons into lemonade. I was immersing myself in the work of Jeff and Peggy Boshart, community development staff for the Church of the Brethren; my purpose as coordinator for mission connections for the denomination was to interpret the microloan enterprises they supervised.

We had just left the town of Villa Nizao, where we had visited coffee-growing projects. Peggy pointed out a river that flows down to the Caribbean Sea about 30 miles from a city called Paraíso, Spanish for Paradise). She told us that every year during Holy Week, the villagers dammed this river, using sticks and branches, and created a lake. They were too poor to travel to “Paradise,” so they created their own. They drank coconut milk from the shells; enjoyed plantains and fried fish; and danced and sang into the night. At the end of Easter vacation, they “undammed” the river and went back to their daily lives. “They made their own beach when they couldn’t afford to travel to one,” Peggy marveled. This community’s choice to create their own joy still comes back to me when I am tempted to complain about circumstances.

 (Jeff is currently manager of the Global Food Initiative for the Church of the Brethren.) 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, remember a time when you turned lemons into lemonade. Have you seen a community turn a challenge into triumph?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXXXIII. 
  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 2019

District News & Announcements

July 2019

“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, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 82

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LXXXII: ON BRIDGE-BUILDERS

Story Circle Prompt: Who do you see being a bridge-builder in action? Between what groups? How is this person inspiring you to action?

One of my current inspirations is the Rev. April G. Johnson, Executive Director of Disciples Ministry of Reconciliation from Indianapolis. Rev. Johnson facilitates the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) process of awareness, analysis and action toward healing the fractures in the body of Christ that are caused by systemic racism. While publicizing an upcoming visit, I have been introduced to her experiences and insights. In my own life, she reignited a personal call to tackle social justice and personal issues, when she said: “God doesn’t ask us to agree to disagree. God asks us to love one another. We know that it is hard, which might be why we avoid the work of relationship with people who are not like us. God keeps calling us into opportunities to birth new relationships and new perspectives.”

Rev. Johnson’s career, building bridges between racial and other differences, is connected to her background. She said, “I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. My parents moved there on my first birthday. Folding under the pressure of tuition of parochial school for my two oldest siblings, they anticipated a better public-school education for their children in the suburbs. Our subdivision was entirely populated by Black residents. Seeing the disparities in my own education as well as the lack of businesses owned by people who looked like me, propelled my nascent passion to right-align opportunities for all people. I was no young version of Angela Davis in my formative years by far, but the differences simply did not make sense to me and kept me exploring new ways to understand and change a system that excluded and withheld opportunity for ‘some’ people.

I am energized by her willingness to work toward social change. How do you keep from being overwhelmed by current political/racial divides? I asked. Her reply to this question moved me. She said, “Our choices today regarding the divisive rhetoric and tribalism in our current national and global dialogue for me are clear. It is our imperative to affirm each other’s humanity. We have made “othering” an art form. Sadly, when we legislate making people ‘other’ while affording a dominant group access to more resources and a better quality of life than those excluded or impacted by such legislation, we justify racism and other oppressions. I simply find no justification for dehumanization. So, I am not overwhelmed by the ministry and work of changing our churchwide and national narrative of division and devaluing people as a standard. Where I do get overwhelmed, or more accurately exasperated, is by the fear that is generated that halts dialogue that keeps ‘good people’ silent and inactive toward promoting inclusion and human dignity for all. As Christians, God reconciled us to all be in God’s beloved “in” group.  We are all “A-listers,” as annoying as that can be.”

Her vision stretches me to think bigger and bolder. She said, “It is my desire that as a communion we embody this work by turning our outrage into action on behalf of those whose lives and stories are dismissed, distorted and diminished by a narrative of exclusion and American exceptionalism. For those of us who are new to being outraged by racism and oppression, I hope that we can support and mutually develop new ways to be in dialogue and relationship with one another that transforms the way we worship and the way we vote. It is my hope that we become leaders in thought and deed that transform our world into one where exclusion is the exception instead of not the norm.”

At this moment, I anticipate the changes I will make in response to this bridge-building leader.

(Note: The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada will hold its biennial gathering in Des Moines, July 20 – 24, 2019. Ames First Christian Church will be a host site for worship for General Assembly attendees on Sunday, July 21, where Rev. Johnson will speak.) 

 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, write about a person you know who models bridge-building between groups or ideologies. How does he/she do this? 

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LXXXII. 
  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.