Shop till I drop

By Katarina Eller, Brot und Rosen Community, Hamburg, Germany

Katarina Eller in Germany

BVS volunteer Katarina Eller in Germany. Photo by Kristin Flory.


My days mostly consist of cleaning, chopping vegetables, and food shopping. Our day begins with devotions in the chapel, with a simple prayer-song-Bible-reading-silence-song-prayer model…. Like a sandwich, or an Oreo cookie. Almost all of the songs come from the Taize movement. (You know you live at Brot & Rosen when most of the songs stuck in your head are in Latin.)

Sometime after breakfast and light cleaning or email-checking, I might start with lunch prep. Leftovers from the night before are warmed up, and some type of salad is made. More often than not, it is a green salad. My favorite part of lunch prep is making the salad dressing (I never want to buy pre-made salad dressing ever again). And the worst is washing the salad. It is usually donated to us from an organic food store and can be very earth-filled and/or sometimes tiny-insect-infested. It can be the case that there is no green salad. But not to worry, other variations are possible! Carrot salad with grated carrots and apples, and oranges with oil and lemon juice for example; or red beet salad with chopped onions, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and caraway seeds. Or chicory salad with apples, oranges, bananas and a yogurt, lemon, curry dressing.

Katarina Eller

Katarina Eller at Brot und Rosen in Hamburg, Germany

I usually don’t cook dinner. Dinner is very intimidating. Often around 15 people show up, and the children don’t eat anything that might contain nutrition for healthy development. So I leave dinner to the professionals (unless of course they’re not around), and chop vegetables for them. We may be unofficially part of what is called the Slow Food Movement (correct me if I’m wrong). Since I’ve been here, I have made/or experienced the making of: salad dressing, bread, jelly, orange juice, tomato sauce, pralines, mixed drinks, pizza, vegan chocolate, vegan cheese, mashed potatoes, African chili salsa, guacamole, fufu European style, applesauce etc. I’m not gonna lie, one of my initial thoughts during my very first week at B & R was: uh-oh. Yeah, sometimes I still feel like that, but it’s all good, that’s why I live in community, so other people can take over when they see me start on a crazy culinary maneuver.

It is my job to buy everything that is not donated by the food bank, organic food store, or ordered from said store. So, a large portion of my shopping includes cooking oil, lemons, noodles, tomato sauce, and toilet paper. Sometimes I have to make more than one trip, even though I use a rolling shopping-hamper-thingy. (I don’t know what we call them, but they are all over Germany.) And sometimes the cashier is like, “Oh it’s you again!” and I think “Yeah, because if you only had a wheely cart and two little chicken-bone arms you’d be back again, too.” Then there’s the whole discussion of what we should buy fair-trade, regional, and organic. And, if organic tomato sauce from who knows where is worth the price, or even really organic, and whether it’s better to buy organic sugar or the normal sugar that says on the package that it’s made in northern Germany from sugar beets but is probably not organic etc. As usual with Brot& Rosen, as soon as I ask a question as to what I should buy, I get eight different answers. So as usual with Brot& Rosen, I just do whatever I want to.

That’s Christian Anarchy for you!

Find out more about Brethren Volunteer Service.

Hyper-real Unconditional Positive Regard: BVS Orientation

By Emily Davis

Perception of reality is often so subjective and inconsistent that it can subvert being present with others. That in conversation or from moment to moment there is a sense of surreal space and time, where situations seem distant, foreign or magnified; where waking consciousness seems more sleep-like. A friend recently spoke so eloquently of these dream-states it made me realize their rarity and that I’d been feeling them most frequently in my life during transitions.

I spent the last three weeks in one of those otherworldly states, in extended moments of fantastic and absurd loving reality at Brethren Volunteer Service orientation.

BVS orientation candle

Photo by Emily Davis

Twenty-four volunteers, making up BVS fall Unit #303, chose year-long, individual volunteer placements, each at a domestic or international non-profit organization focused on social justice and peace work. Together, among the picturesque rolling hills and corn fields of New Windsor, Maryland, we considered our vocational callings, attended training sessions, cooked for each other, worked in the community, sang hymns, threw dance parties, practiced devotional meditations, told nonsensical stories and played ridiculous amounts of four square.

Our group of uncommonly kind individuals opened up to each other relatively fast. We shared deep insecurities, hard pasts, and current joys so fiercely that we cultivated a strong sense of trust and connection. And some vocalized a feeling of being part of a magic bubble or alternative reality made of communal strength and safety.

Our last weekend we stayed at Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren and volunteered with the Brethren Housing Association. For me, and others I think, those few days gave a vivid example of what the Church of the Brethren is about. Although there are a small number of congregants, there is an enormous, humble partnership being built with that community; where structural impact can be seen in many small but persistent ways. On Sunday morning Pastor Belita spoke of a multifaceted faith in God that is planted in grace and personal relationships in order to serve others. In Harrisburg and later, I fell in love with those combined Brethren ideals: living in peaceful simple community, serving others together.

Those values provided a framework of thought and action that was a central part of the mystical-community-reality of orientation. In that space I was hyper-sensitive to past feelings, present thoughts, and future expectations, and immersed in thinking about how to use my particular passions and gifts to serve.

Domestic volunteers from our unit moved to their placement cities and started work this week. Going out into the world where Brethren ideals are not the norm or structure of thought and where those expectations or intentions are not necessarily clear, is daunting. The task seems infinitely lonely and substantially more difficult without intentional community, where a winking smile, compassionate hug and true support were easy to find. It was a magical, surreal place because trust, acceptance and love were abundant.

I leave for Hinche, Haiti in early November and I want to stay in that dream-state of mindful reality during my service. Where moments may seem subjective, raw or strange but they’re hyper-real and CLEARER because I’ll be questioning my faith journey, vocation, power, paradigms of thought, and intentions; and actively working to make meaningful connections with those around me. I am SO thrilled for these two years of Brethren Volunteer Service because I get to work through the model of loving kindness and pragmatic solidarity, spreading and emanating that energy I found at orientation of cosmic unconditional love.

Find out more about Brethren Volunteer Service.

Bread that gives life

LENT_real_rest_FRONTPAGE

 

John 6:52-59

Prayer for the day:
Listening God,
Help me to rise to the challenge of following you. May my commitment to you grow like leavened bread rising on a warm day.

Question for reflection:
What are areas in your own community that could use leavening?

~ Katie Cummings, National Youth Conference Coordinator

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lenten Devotional written by Duane Grady, pastor of Cedar Lake Church of the Brethren (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Duane’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

 

 

No time to be alone

LENT_real_rest_FRONTPAGELuke 22:39-46

Prayer for the day:

For our frailness and for our strength, which are so intertwined, we give you thanks, Great Comforter. Work through us to touch the lives of others, even when we are completely unaware of your movement. Help us to help each other, Lord.

Question for reflection:

Think of a time when someone unknowingly said just the thing you didn’t know you needed to hear. What did that feel like? Once you became more aware of the burden you were carrying/your own humanity, was Jesus present to you in that moment? What did that feel like?

~ Becky Ullom-Naugle, Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lenten Devotional written by Duane Grady, pastor of Cedar Lake Church of the Brethren (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Duane’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

 

Significant sacrifice

2013 Advent good_news_hi_res  Matthew 2:13 -15

Prayer for the day:
God of us all, open my eyes and heart to those near neighbors and the wider global community to those who are building new lives for themselves among strangers –as immigrants, refugees, travelers, and searchers. May I welcome them as you have you have welcomed me.


Question for reflection:

Once upon a time, it was not uncommon for generation after generation of a family to live in the same town, surrounded by the same neighbors, extended family, and attend the same church or temple. However, our modern society is much more transient as we travel for education, jobs, and other opportunities. I cannot help but imagine Mary and Joseph, parents of a newborn, in a new neighborhood, and missing home. They were probably in desperate need for a casserole. It is easy to remember to give to soup kitchens, family shelters, and gifts for children programs during the holidays but the need is year round. Who is new in your neighborhood, sacrificing the familiarity and safety of home for their children? How can we support them through our congregations and charitable donations?

~ Gimbiya Kettering,  Intercultural Ministries Coordinator

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Tim Harvey, pastor of Central Church of the Brethren (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Tim’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Mutualizing

Lent 2013 Cover    Hebrews 10:19-25

Question for reflection:
Who do you worship with? Who do you gather with to play? To eat? To work? Who is in your community? Who would you want to welcome into your community?

Prayer for the day:
O God, your faithfulness and forgiveness extends to me, to my family, to my community – and beyond. Enable me to see those I meet as You would see them and to welcome them as You would welcome them. Amen.

~ Gimbiya Kettering, Intercultural Ministries Coordinator

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lenten devotional, The Practice of Paying Attention, written by Dana Cassell, Minister of Youth Formation at the Manassas Church of the Brethren. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Dana’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Lift up your hearts

Lent 2013 Cover   Romans 2:12-16

Question for reflection:
Who do you know that lives outside of a faith community but seems to follow the ways of Jesus better than many Christians? How might you develop a relationship with them?

Prayer for the day:
God of mystery, you often choose interesting people to do your work. Help me to see you in everyone, to hear your voice in places I don’t expect it.

~ Donna Kline, Director of Denominational Deacon Ministry

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lenten devotional, The Practice of Paying Attention, written by Dana Cassell, Minister of Youth Formation at the Manassas Church of the Brethren. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Walt’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

The heavenly host: Waiting in the wings

Luke 2:10-14

Question for Reflection:
How/do you expand your community during Advent and Christmas?

Prayer for the day:
O God, you who created us to be in relationship, help us to feel the joy found only in community. Encourage us to join in with the multitudes singing praise to you, and to invite others to sing along.
Amen

~ Donna Kline, Director of Denominational Deacon Ministry

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Walt Wiltschek, campus pastor of Manchester University. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Walt’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Praying the Psalms in Lent

Basin, Towel, and Bible for LentDietrich Bonhoeffer titled one of his books The Psalms: Prayerbook of the Bible. As part of his seminary experiment the students and teachers would pray the psalms together. Though it might seem innovative to some, the book of Psalms has been a hymn and prayer book for the people of God for centuries.

This approach to the book of Psalms stands in pretty stark contrast to our current ways of reading scripture. Rather than reading the Bible for themes, or ideas, or theological concepts, praying scripture teaches us to present the range of our experiences to God. Invariably, while praying these prayers, the reader will encounter emotions or images that say nothing to their current experience. This is not such a bad thing. The language and images of these old hymns refuse to leave us at the heights of praise or the depths of despair. As Don Sailers has said, the psalms speak of humanity at full stretch before God. That is to say, humanity stretched out between the postures of lament and of praise. Praying these ancient words lets us call out to God without reservation. At the same time, they offer words of comfort and challenge from the same God we invoke. In all, the psalms work on our inner life through spoken and read words, shaping us into more Christ like persons with each refrain.

For this season of Lent, I am not going to give something up. Instead, I am going to add something to my daily routine. For the forty days of Lent I will pray through the entire book of Psalms. So that means, six days a week from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday I will be praying at least four Psalms.

If you are new to this way of reading scripture, here is a short article from Christianity Today to get you started. To guide us through the season, a calendar has been posted on our website.

I invite you to join me in this practice. It really does not matter which translation you use, simply find a rendering of the psalms that leads you into prayer. There are many fine translations, some good paraphrases, and multitudes of musical settings.

Let’s take this time as a church to pray together, and not just in our own familiar words, but with the very words of scripture. Let’s let the prayer book of the Bible be our teacher this lent.

 

The Days Are Surely Coming

Prayer for the Day

Creator God, to whom all time is present, we stand in the constant flow of minutes passing into history. Just as we remember the days gone by, we long for the days yet to come. This waiting hope, however, unsettles us. Grant us peace in this day to wait, both remembering the coming of your Word and longing for the day of Christ’s return. Amen

Question

Are you person comfortable with waiting, or are you a go out and get it done kind of person? What does this season of waiting reveal to your personal style?

-Joshua Brockway; Director, Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent devotional written by David W. Miller. (Available from Brethren Press) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, David’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.