Ecumenical visitors include Disciples president, BDM partner




Sharon Watkins, president and general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Photo by Regina Holmes
Sharon Watkins, president and general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Ecumenical guests were introduced to the delegate body during the Monday business session. General secretary Stanley Noffsinger introduced Sharon E. Watkins, president and general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Zach Wolgemuth of Brethren Disaster Ministries introduced Charlie Gockel, a partner in the home rebuilding project site in Prattsville, N.Y.

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Watkins brought greetings from her denomination. In her remarks she described her church saying, “If the Church of the Brethren is all about peace, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is all about unity.” She said that our two denominations partner in many ways, and noted that many Conference-goers were telling her stories of local connections between Brethren and Disciples as well.

Gockel is a United Methodist pastor and Executive Director of Huntersfield Christian Training Center in Prattsville. In Aug. 2011, Hurricane Irene dropped 18 inches of rain on the area. The training center shut down its regular programming and opened its facility as a shelter for flood-displaced families. The staff began to oversee volunteers and case management.

Charlie Gockel, Executive Director of Huntersfield Christian Training Center in Prattsville, N.Y.
Photo by Regina Holmes
Charlie Gockel, executive director of Huntersfield Christian Training Center in Prattsville, N.Y.

For the first year, Gockel and his staff did the work themselves, an often overwhelming task. He reported that he prayed for help several times and eventually was guided to Brethren Disaster Ministries. In June 2012, the Brethren came to oversee the ecumenical long-term reconstruction effort which continues in the area. Gockel expressed deep gratitude for the help and support of Brethren Disaster Ministries and the work of the many volunteers who have served his community.

-- Frances Townsend is pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren and a member of the Annual Conference News Team.

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