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District News & Announcements – July 2020

District News & Announcements

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

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

Banner photo: Minnesota Brethren – Carol Wise, Gordon Hoffert and Kathy Mack – joined the Interfaith Silent Clergy March on June 2nd in Minneapolis to bear witness for justice in the wake of the death of George Floyd.  Photo taken by Kim Hill-Smith.  Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

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

Holiness in our Midst: Session 94

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION XCIV: ON LETTING GO

Story Circle Prompt: What may you need to let go of to grow holistically? 

This question is one of several suggested for reflection as part of the Compelling Vision process, a time of intentional discernment happening on congregational, district and denominational levels in the Church of the Brethren. The guiding statement for the process reads, in part: “Join us in reclaiming a new passion for Christ and helping set a course for our future as the Church of the Brethren serving Him in our communities and in the world!” The goal for the process, according to the Vision Statement, is to “…develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.” The denomination is calling us to a new level of holistic peace and inclusivity. 

Before adding my voice to the larger Compelling Vision conversation at institutional levels, I am exploring the “letting go of” question on a personal level. In the enforced quiet of the Covid-19 crisis, the crying need for a more just world plays out on the daily news. I want to respond to the times, but only after a period of personal discernment. 

What do I need to let go of to be an effective disciple in the coming world? My list so far:

  • I need to let go of fear, so I have more room for faith.
  • I need to let go of idealizing the past, so I can embrace the imperfect present.
  • I need to let go of my passive contentment with my privileged status, so I can act on my holy discontent about inequalities locally and nationally.
  • I need to let go of demonizing (however subtly) persons who think differently from me, so I can welcome all as brothers and sisters in Christ.

What stands between you and deeper commitment? What patterns do you need to shed?

 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the question: What may you need to let go of to grow holistically as a renewed passionate disciple of Christ? What may we need to let go of as a district to be more innovative, adaptable, and fearless? What may we need to let go of as a denomination to better serve our communities?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

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

FOR GROUP STUDY:

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

 

[View Past Sessions Here]

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

Special District Conference Announcements

District Conference 2020

Our 2020 Northerns Plains District Conference will be a virtual conference this year on July 31 – August 2!  We will be using the technology platforms of ZOOM and YouTube. The planning committee is planning a meaningful program of worship, an insight session, along with our worshipful work business session and some fun, fellowship time!  We are still asking you to register for conference this year.  For you to take part in conference, we need your email address and your phone number along with your mailing address so we can share needed information with you. We are very aware and sensitive about those without email and/or computer. We are doing our best to accommodate these persons.

Full Registration Packet – To be printed, filled out, and sent by mail – DUE JULY 22
– 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

Registration and other District Conference information may be found at nplains.org/dc2020/.   Please check back for updates and information of how to log-in to District Conference events.  Please let me know if you have any questions!

District Conference Support, Ida Van Westen
phone/text 507-360-7387 email: dc-suppport@nplains.org

Northern Plains District Conference

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

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!

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
Windows: right click + Print OR [Ctrl] + P
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?

Holiness in our Midst: Session 93

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION XCIII: ON ‘ABSENT PARTICIPANTS’

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

First, the story behind this turn of phrase:

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

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

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

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

Who is an “absent participant” in your life?

 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

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

 

FOR GROUP STUDY:

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

[View Past Sessions Here]

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

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

2020 NORTHERN PLAINS DISTRICT CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

DISTRICT EXECUTIVE POSTPONING SABBATH RENEWAL

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

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

 


 

ANNUAL CONFERENCE WILL NOT BE HELD THIS SUMMER

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

District News & Announcements – May 2020

District News & Announcements

May 2020

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

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Holiness in our Midst: Session 92

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION XCII: ON COMMUNION

Story Circle Prompt: Recall a memorable Communion service.

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

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

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

Communion in Covid, 

O’er the Waves of the Web, 

Unhindered by Space or Wall

Community in Christ, 

Celebrate we All. 

(Used by permission)

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

 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

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

 

FOR GROUP STUDY:

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

[View Past Sessions Here]

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