By Frances Townsend
One of the first items on the Annual Conference business schedule is the welcoming of new fellowships and congregations. Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices on the Congregational Life Ministries team, presented groups given fellowship or congregational status by their districts since last year’s Annual Conference. Also recognized were two pre-existing congregations that have been received into the denomination by districts.
Later in the day a welcome reception was held for these new congregations and fellowships:
New Beginnings Church of the Brethren, which was birthed by Chiques Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., in Atlantic Northeast District, has achieved congregational status.
Jonah’s People is a new fellowship in Northern Ohio District, meeting at a Church of the Brethren retirement community. Barry Belknap, the chaplain and now pastor, recognized among the residents of the retirement community a desire for congregational life, not just chapel services. Older people still want to live out the values of mission and outreach, he said in an interview during the reception. The new group includes community members as well as residents.
Veritas, led by Ryan Braught, is a church plant that has been underway for six years in Lancaster, Pa. The group now has fellowship status. Braught described three core principles on which they are building: being a blessing in the world, which Veritas carries out through an art gallery and through refugee ministry; being disciples, which is lived out through small groups, community groups and personal spiritual disciplines; sharing life together, which involves being part of one another’s lives during the week in addition to Sunday worship. Participants in this new fellowship are mostly in their 20s.
Southeastern District has accepted two existing congregations into the Church of the Brethren. Betel International is pastored by Libia Gutierrez, whose background is with the Assemblies of God. The congregation is around 14 years old. It joined the Church of the Brethren for many reasons, including the desire not to be an independent congregation, but to be part of a larger, supportive network. Gutierrez’ friendship with Lidia Gonzales of the His Way Church of the Brethren was also crucial. Southeastern District also has accepted the already existing congregation Ministerio Uncion Apostolica, led by pastor Iris Gutierrez. These two congregations already have started two new fellowships that soon may come to the district for admission as well.
Another new group named was the Gospel Assembly, a congregation that is predominantly Haitian but also includes African-American and Latino members. This pre-existing congregation was received with fellowship status by Atlantic Southeast District in 2015.
The 2016 Annual Conference News Team includes: writers Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Tyler Roebuck, Monica McFadden; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown; Conference Journal editor Eddie Edmonds; web manager Jan Fischer Bachman; web staff Russ Otto; editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.