Newsline for May 24, 2006

“For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” — James 2:26


1) Brethren receive record-breaking dividend from Brotherhood Mutual.
2) Church planting is `doable,’ conference participants learn.
3) Ecumenical committee plans for Annual Conference.
4) Brethren Academy welcomes 14 new ministry students.
5) Nigerian Brethren revamp church employees’ pension plan.
6) Brethren bits: Correction, job openings, personnel, and more.


7) Ebersole to join Association of Brethren Caregivers staff.
8) Garrison to direct Wellness Ministry for three church agencies.


9) Disaster Child Care offers Level 1 Training Workshops.
10) Global Mission speakers bring international perspective to conference.


11) Ministers Association offers pre-Annual Conference event.
12) Committee develops commemorative calendar for 300th anniversary.

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1) Brethren receive record-breaking dividend from Brotherhood Mutual.

A dividend check of $126,290 for the year 2005 has been received by the Church of the Brethren denomination from Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, through its Partnership Group Program. Mutual Aid Association (MAA) is the sponsoring Brethren agency for the program, which has rewarded the Church of the Brethren’s more than 400 churches, camps, and districts comprising the group (

The dividend check was symbolically delivered to executives of the Annual Conference-related agencies on May 16 at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., by Dan Book of Brotherhood Mutual.

The dividend was the largest ever paid in the history of Brotherhood Mutual, a “record-breaking” amount figured upon the Brethren group’s favorable loss experience last year, said MAA president Jean Hendricks. The Church of the Brethren dividend for 2004 of $109,835 also broke a record for Brotherhood Mutual, Hendricks added. “In essence, we broke our own record a second time,” she said.

Decisions about the use of the dividend were made by the agency executives. A part of the dividend will support special denominational ministries, with $43,000 given for the work of the 300th Anniversary Committee of Annual Conference; $15,000 to the Germantown Trust to help prepare the property in Philadelphia–the “mother church” of the denomination as the first congregation established in America–for 300th anniversary activities beginning in 2007 through 2008; and $10,000 to Elizabethtown (Pa.) College for the Church Member Profile Study through the Young Center for the Study of Anabaptist and Pietist Groups.

The sum of $50,400 has gone to the Mutual Aid Association Share Fund Inc., which provides matching funds to congregations for meeting human needs following a natural disaster, health crisis, or other emergency (congregations insured through MAA may apply for such grants to aid the congregation, congregation members, or the local community). In support of MAA and Brotherhood Mutual, the executives designated $6,500 to support their promotion in the denomination. For expenses incurred in the handling of the money the General Board received $1,000, less than one percent of the total, leaving a small balance remaining.

This is the third year in a row that the Church of the Brethren has received a dividend from Brotherhood Mutual. In 2003, MAA used the dividend to bolster its operations including the Share Fund. In 2004, $50,000 of the dividend was returned directly to Brethren congregations and agencies insured through MAA, with the rest allocated by the agency executives to help fund the 300th Anniversary Committee and Together: Conversations on Being the Church; some 400 congregations received amounts ranging from $25 to $3,000 depending on their insurance premiums.

Brotherhood Mutual returns excess premiums not needed to pay losses, up to a certain level, said a purpose statement for the Partnership Group Program. The company grants the dividend if the denominational group “collectively enjoys a better-than-average claims experience,” the document explained. “We will share our profit with you in the form of a dividend…. We are not a stock insurance company operating in the best interest of our stockholders. We are a mutual insurance company, operating in the best interest of our policyholders.”

The Partnership Group Program paid out a record $1.8 million in dividends to policyholders in 2005, the company reported. Since the mid-1980s, Brotherhood Mutual has paid more than $11.5 million in dividends.

Hendricks warned the denomination not to expect such windfalls every year. The dividend “is never guaranteed,” she said. “We don’t know that we’ll get it next year.”


2) Church planting is ‘doable,’ conference participants learn.

This week brought the conclusion of the Church of the Brethren’s Church Planting Conference May 20-23, the third to be held at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. The theme was “Scissors, Paper, Rock: Tools, Textures, and Testimonies in Church Planting.” Attendees included novice and experienced church planters as well as those just exploring what it means to plant a church, according to a report provided by Tasha Hornbacker, summer intern at the Brethren Academy.

The event was sponsored by the General Board’s Congregational Life Ministries and developed with the New Church Development Advisory Committee and the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. Funding was provided through the Emerging Global Mission Fund of the General Board. Jen Sanders was the conference coordinator.

Keynote speaker was Michael Cox, former staff for church planting for the American Baptist Churches USA and pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Montclair, N.J. Preachers for the event included Marcos Inhauser, national director for Igreja da Irmandade (Church of the Brethren in Brazil) who brought the message Sunday evening, and Chris Bunch, founding pastor of the Jar Community Church, who spoke Monday evening.

As well as the keynote addresses, the conference also included a variety of workshops led by pastors who are currently planting churches and others in the Church of the Brethren faith community. Among the workshop leaders were David Shumate, who led a series of church planting workshops; Kathy Royer, who gave leadership in spiritual direction; Congregational Life Team staff Duane Grady and Carol Yeazell; and others.

Attendees also enjoyed energetic worship and daily small group meetings that allowed time and space to process the events of the conference. Worship services were developed by Amy Gall Ritchie and led by Seth Hendricks and Jonathan Shively.

The conference kicked off with a lively worship service and message brought by Cox, who gave the participants a list of 10 key elements to church planting including prayer, abundant gospel sowing, and intentional church planting. Church planting, Cox said, has to be done out of a sense of call, not out of a survival mode. It has to be done intentionally because “churches don’t just happen,” he said.

Cox also spoke from James 2 in another address about faith and works, advising the conference that church planting is not an “either/or,” but rather a “this and that.” Unaware of the Church of the Brethren’s history with the book of James, he referred to the passage as an obscure text, to the amusement of the audience. He went on to talk about measuring success, giving three main reasons for the failure of a church plant: the wrong person is doing the planting, it is being done in the wrong location, or the wrong strategies are being used.

“Michael Cox reminded us that reaching out begins with each of us as individuals,” said Jonathan Shively, director of the Brethren Academy. “The change that we need first is not institutional, structural or congregational; it’s personal.”

When asked why a conference about church planting is important, one participant commented, “If we’re going to do it, we better learn how to do it right!” Another said simply, “This is doable.”

The conference ended with worship. After reflecting on what had been learned over the weekend, participants were sent forth with prayer and song to do God’s work, find the lost, and bring them home.


3) Ecumenical committee plans for Annual Conference.

Special events at this year’s Annual Conference, and work on ecumenical relationships with other denominations, topped the agenda at the spring meeting of the Committee on Interchurch Relations. The group, which is a joint committee of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and the General Board, met by conference call on April 4.

Ecumenical activities at Annual Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, in July will include the annual Ecumenical Luncheon and awarding of an Ecumenical Citation, as well as two insight sessions. Deborah DeWinter, program executive of the US Conference of the World Council of Churches (WCC), will speak at the luncheon on the topic, “Where Have All the Christians Gone: The Changing Face of the World’s Churches,” addressing the shift of church population from the northern to the southern hemisphere. DeWinter also will lead an insight session about the WCC with Jeff Carter, Church of the Brethren delegate to the WCC. The luncheon will include a multimedia show of images from the WCC’s 9th assembly that took place in February in Brazil.

The second ecumenical insight session will focus on the National Council of Churches in the US (NCC), with leadership from the Church of the Brethren representatives to the NCC.

In its work on relationships with other denominations, the committee accepted an invitation to send a representative to the Triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which is meeting June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio. The invitation came through the office of the general secretary of the General Board, who was invited to participate in the primary Convention Eucharist celebration on Sunday, June 18, and to be presented to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies as an ecumenical visitor on Monday, June 19. “Your presence will give witness to our oneness in Christ and to our mutual commitment to ecumenical relations,” said the invitation letter from Episcopal presiding bishop Frank T. Griswold. Michael Hostetter, a member of the committee, was chosen to represent the Church of the Brethren.

A special relationship with the American Baptist Churches USA is continuing, with a committee member invited to attend the next meeting of the ecumenical committee of the American Baptists, and a member of the General Board staff also planning to attend another upcoming American Baptist. An American Baptist representative, Rothang Chhangte, takes part in the meetings of the Committee on Interchurch Relations as an ex-officio member.

The committee plans to send Church of the Brethren “fraternal visitors” to the annual meetings of several other Brethren denominations this year, including the Brethren Church, Conservative Grace Brethren, Dunkard Brethren, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, and Old German Baptist Brethren.

Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the General Board, gave a report to the committee as “the point person for a lot of our ecumenical contacts,” said committee member James Eikenberry, who provided this report of the meeting. Noffsinger shared information from the WCC 9th Assembly and thanked delegate Jeff Carter “for his outstanding leadership on behalf of the Church of the Brethren,” Eikenberry said. Noffsinger also shared plans for the third in a series of Historic Peace Church consultations related to the Decade to Overcome Violence. The consultation takes place in Asia in 2007 on the theme, “Living Together in Interfaith Conflict as Historic Peace Churches.” The General Board is giving a support grant to help make the consultation possible.

Members of the Committee on Interchurch Relations are chair Steve Brady, Ilexene Alphonse, James Eikenberry, Brandy Fix, Michael Hostetter, and Robert Johansen. Chhangte and Noffsinger serve ex-officio. The committee will meet next at Annual Conference in July, and then on Sept. 22-24 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.


4) Brethren Academy welcomes 14 new ministry students.

Fourteen new students took part in an orientation week for the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership in early March. The academy is a ministry training partnership of the Church of the Brethren General Board and Bethany Theological Seminary.

The students will participate in either the Training in Ministry (TRIM) or Education for a Shared Ministry (EFSM) programs for non-graduate ministry training. The group attended from the districts of Northern Plains, Northern Indiana, Southern Ohio, Southern Pennsylvania, Mid-Atlantic, Michigan, and Middle Pennsylvania.

For more about the Brethren Academy and its programs and course offerings, go to


5) Nigerian Brethren revamp church employees’ pension plan.

The Majalisa, or annual conference, of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), has voted to implement a new pension plan for its church workers. The plan, following guidelines established in part by a recently-passed Nigerian pension law, was developed with the help of Tom and Janet Crago, short-term mission workers with the Global Mission Partnerships of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

The new plan, which provides benefits for all current and future EYN employees, plus existing pensioners, was passed after “considerable debate about the costs involved,” according to reports from Nigeria. It replaces a pension plan in which most employees and congregational employers did not have to contribute directly to the cost of their future pension benefits. Such “pay-as-you-go” pension plans have been quite common in Nigeria in the past.

The Cragos explained the previous system a bit more. “Each church pays 15 percent of its offerings annually to EYN headquarters to cover the operating costs of the Headquarters Office, but these revenues were not keeping up with the growth in yearly pension expenses. All pension costs were being paid out of the headquarter’s annual revenues,” the Cragos said. “And, it clearly wasn’t going to be enough to get the job done in the years to come,” they added. By the end of this year, EYN could have nearly 100 retirees, compared with only about 850 active employees.

Under the new plan, congregations will pay 27.5 percent and employees will pay 10 percent of each employee’s salary, including housing and transportation allowances. Ten percent of the employer’s contribution, matched by the employee’s 10 percent, will go into a savings account for the employee. The remaining employer’s 17.5 percent will go to fund the cost of current pensioners, and to build reserves to cover the accrued pension liabilities of EYN for current employees. Each employee’s individual pension savings account will be held by a licensed pension custodian for each worker’s future benefit.

“This is huge step for EYN!” said the Cragos. “They are committed now to fully funding both past and future retirement benefits for their employees. The real impact of this change–in a country where parents often say that they have children in order to ensure a decent retirement in old age–remains to be seen. It has the potential to change traditional social norms about retirement planning.”

EYN has stepped up to this new pension challenge sooner than most employers in Nigeria, the Cragos said. Even many government agencies have reportedly not yet implemented their plans.

In continuing work on the EYN plan, Tom Crago will help calculate the “net present value” of each employee’s accrued pension benefits as of June 25, 2004, when the new legislation took effect. He also will work with the new EYN Pension Board to develop daily operating procedures for the Pension Office. Janet Crago will develop an employee pension database for the Pension Office, and will handle some of the computer training for EYN staff who will maintain the data.


6) Brethren bits: Correction, job openings, personnel, and more.
  • Correction: A course listed in the May 10 Newsline as an offering from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership has been canceled: “Interpreting the Brethren,” June 10-14.
  • The Gather ’Round curriculum, a project of the Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church USA, and Mennonite Church Canada, is accepting applications for three staff positions: editor (full-time or shared), to edit content of junior youth, youth, parent/caregiver, and preschool units; marketing and communications coordinator (half-time), to design and implement marketing strategies and to develop communications resources; project assistant (full-time), to provide administrative support and marketing assistance, and to update website and e-commerce site. Project may consider breaking out or combining pieces of job descriptions in different ways. Elgin, Ill., location required for project assistant. Brethren or Mennonite members preferred; denominational balance on project staff will be considered. Deadline for applications is July 15 or until positions are filled. Learn more about the curriculum at Mail cover letter and resume to Anna Speicher, Director and Editor, Gather ’Round Curriculum, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.
  • Looking for a unique service opportunity at Annual Conference on July 1-5 in Des Moines, Iowa? Consider volunteering as a Spanish translator during the business sessions or worship services. If your talents lend themselves to this ministry of assistance, please contact Nadine L. Monn at, or stop by the translation table during the Conference.
  • Barbara York has accepted the position of Accounts Payable and Payroll Specialist for the Church of the Brethren General Board, working at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. A resident of Elgin, she has filled this position previously on a temporary basis and is currently assisting in the Annual Conference Office. She brings a strong accounting background from positions held in the Elgin area. Additionally, she has operated her own business and worked as a teacher’s aide, providing special needs assistance. York will be joining the General Board by May 30.
  • Diane Settie has accepted the position of office coordinator in Service Ministries for the General Board, working at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. She resides in Eldersburg, Md., and has worked as a receptionist, secretary, administrative and office manager. More recently, she worked at Rocky Knoll Adventist School as an office administrator. Settie began in the position May 15.
  • Bethany Theological Seminary has decided not to hold an Exploring Your Call (EYC) event this summer. An event previously scheduled for June 23-27 at Shepherd’s Spring Outdoor Ministry Center in Sharpsburg, Md., has been called off in light of the intense involvement of youth in preparing for National Youth Conference (NYC) July 22-27.
  • A new poster set for display in congregations highlights development work in Guatemala. The posters highlight the work with cisterns, stoves, and reforestation carried out in Guatemala by the Global Food Crisis Fund, Global Mission Partnerships, and Brethren Volunteer Service. Each of the three posters is mounted at the size 17 by 24 inches. A set is available for a month’s loan with the only charge being return shipment. To request a set, contact the Global Food Crisis Fund, Church of the Brethren General Board, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 264;
  • Registration is being extended to June 15 for “The Other Stream: Alternative Forms of Radical Pietism,” a continuing education seminar for clergy, ministry students, and others July 5-6 in Amana, Iowa. To register or for more information contact
  • The University of La Verne (Calif.) boasts five graduation ceremonies on four days, and a host of commencement speakers. Among them is Myrna Long Wheeler, chaplain at Brethren Hillcrest Homes, speaking for the College of Arts and Sciences commencement May 26. National Public Radio host Larry Mantle will speak for the College of Education and Organizational Leadership May 27. Award-winning author, peace activist, and international investment banker Azim N. Khamisa will be keynote speaker May 27 for the College of Business and Public Management. Leonard Pellicer, dean of the university’s College of Education and Organizational Leadership, will address the 2006 Doctoral Program in Organizational Leadership ceremony. William K. Suter, clerk of the US Supreme Court, will speak at the College of Law Commencement Ceremony on May 21. Tickets are required for all commencement ceremonies held in Ortmayer Stadium. For more information go to
  • The National Council of Churches (NCC) seeks young adults ages 18-30 to serve in its Stewards Program for the Nov. 7-9, 2006, General Assembly of the NCC and Church World Service in Orlando, Fla. The program provides young adults with a unique experience of ecumenical formation, as they serve to help make the assembly happen through volunteer assignments in hospitality, registration, platform assistance, technology, the assembly office, and the newsroom. Stewards arrive in Orlando for orientation on Nov. 5 and depart Nov. 10. Expenses except personal expenses will be covered by the assembly, through special donations from supporters. Deadline for applications is Aug. 1. Go to
  • A Conscientious Objectors Autobiographies Project is seeking to publish a book of stories of diverse men who were conscientious objectors at the time of World War II, under the working title, “Men of Peace.” The book will present the histories of how the men made their decisions, and will show how their consequent experiences played important roles in social progress, said Mary Hopkins, one of those working on the project. “Our goal is to help readers to understand and respect the man of peace whom conscience compels to take a position opposed by majority social norms,” she said. “We see this publication as a step toward placing on library shelves autobiographies of an indispensable significance now denied by the overwhelming number of books about those who make war.” Other volunteers are needed to interview and transcribe the life stories for inclusion. Guidelines and support will be provided. All material submitted will go into the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. For more information contact or Mary Hopkins at 610-388-0770.
  • Sam Hornish Jr., a Church of the Brethren member from Ohio, has earned the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 on May 28. He averaged 228.985 mph in four-lap qualifications for the race, and will start first on the inside of the front row, according to a “Sports Illustrated” website. Hornish is a two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion and drives with Marlboro Team Penske. The 500-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track begins at 1 p.m. (eastern) on Sunday.


7) Ebersole to join Association of Brethren Caregivers staff.

Kim Ebersole of North Manchester, Ind., will serve as director of Family and Older Adult Ministries of the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC), effective Aug. 1.

Ebersole will continue the Older Adult Ministry program, creating resources and leading workshops for congregations wanting to provide an intentional ministry by, for, and with older adults. She also will be forging a new emphasis on Family Life Ministry. In recent years, Family Life Ministry was a component of each of ABC’s ministry imperatives. Now the agency intends to make a more intentional effort at providing program for Family Life Ministry.

Ebersole has served as director of Social Services for Peabody Retirement Community of North Manchester since 1997, and also worked for several years for a hospice as a social worker and bereavement coordinator. Her professional career has included creating and directing an AIDS service organization in Gettysburg, Pa. She also served on the denomination’s HIV/AIDS Task Force in the 1990s.

She holds degrees from Manchester College and Temple University and is a Licensed Social Worker. Ebersole is a member of the Manchester Church of the Brethren.


8) Garrison to direct Wellness Ministry for three church agencies.

Mary Lou Garrison will assume responsibilities as part-time director of Wellness Ministries of the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC), effective Aug. 1. The position is staffed through ABC, and is a collaborative position also supported by Brethren Benefit Trust and the Church of the Brethren General Board. Garrison will work from the ABC office in Elgin, Ill.

Garrison’s work will involve promoting wellness and the goals of the church’s Wellness Ministry in congregations, districts, and agencies throughout the denomination, with special attention to those enrolled in the Brethren Medical Plan. She will also develop, coordinate, and manage a resource bureau of people from across the church who have expertise in areas of health education.

Garrison is resigning July 28 as director of Human Resources for the General Board. Previously she served as Human Resources Director and as a Geriatric Social Worker for Pinecrest Community in Mount Morris, Ill., and has worked as a manager of Upjohn Home Health Care Services of Battle Creek, Mich. She holds degrees from Manchester College and Western Michigan University. She is a member of Mount Morris Church of the Brethren.


9) Disaster Child Care offers Level 1 Training Workshops.

Disaster Child Care, an ecumenical program that is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren General Board, trains volunteers to set up child care centers in disaster locations. The centers provide crisis intervention for children who have been affected by disaster, and helps care for children while their parents or family members seek assistance following a disaster. Anyone with a genuine love for children (18 years of age and older) is welcome to attend one of this summer’s training events and apply for certification.

Training workshops will be held June 16-17 at Grace United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Ga.; June 23-24, at Fruitland (Idaho) Church of the Brethren; June 23-24 at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County in Tampa, Fla.; and Aug. 11-12 at Roanoke (La.) United Methodist Church.

Registration costs $45 if postmarked three weeks prior to the workshop, $55 if postmarked later. Registration covers all materials, meals, and overnight accommodations during the training. To register or for more information contact coordinator Helen Stonesifer at 800-451-4407 (option 5). A registration form can also be obtained from


10) Global Mission speakers bring international perspective to conference.

This year’s Global Ministries Dinner at Annual Conference will offer “a rare opportunity to hear a speaker of global stature and perspective,” said Merv Keeney, executive director of the General Board’s Global Mission Partnerships. Erlinda Senturias, president of Southern Christian College in Cotabato, Philippines, will speak at the Global Ministries Dinner on July 4.

In another Global Mission meal event, the International Welcome Dinner on July 1 will hear from Jim Hardenbrook, interim director for the General Board’s Sudan Initiative.

Senturias’ topic is “Transforming Communities: Stories of Hope from Rural Philippines” (for a flier go to The communities of Mindanao Island in southern Philippines face multiple concerns: health, economic hardship, Christian-Muslim tensions, and environmental degradation. Senturias will speak to the ways these communities, their churches, and peoples are beginning to foster healing and wholeness. A medical doctor by profession, Senturias has carried leadership roles with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the World Council of Churches.

Hardenbrook is past moderator of Annual Conference and a pastor at Nampa (Idaho) Church of the Brethren. The title for his presentation is “Don’t Let This Harvest Pass” (for a flier go to The statement was made to Hardenbrook last year when he was in Sudan with a delegation of interfaith leaders. Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, minister of humanitarian affairs for the government of Sudan, urged the Church of the Brethren not to let the opportunity pass to take advantage of open doors made possible by a peace agreement between the northern government and southern rebels.

Other Global Mission Partnerships events at the Conference include insight sessions on variety of topics, a Brethren Volunteer Service Luncheon on July 3, and the Brethren Witness/Washington Office’s “Un-Luncheon” on July 4.


11) Committee develops commemorative calendar for 300th anniversary.

A commemorative calendar featuring 17 contemporary photos of historical Brethren sites is being developed by the 300th Anniversary Committee of Annual Conference, in partnership with the Brethren Church Tercentennial Committee. The calendar will be a part of the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the beginning of the Brethren movement in 1708.

The calendar will be dated Sept. 2007 through Dec. 2008 and will include more than 20 inset photos, sidebars listing significant historical dates for the Brethren, and dates of 300th anniversary celebration events. Six pages of information will include the history of other Brethren bodies, Brethren ordinances, interesting Annual Meeting decisions prior to 1884, and Brethren contributions to education and printing.

The calendar will be ready for delivery early in 2007. Order forms will be available at Annual Conference this summer in Des Moines. More information about how to order for those unable to attend Annual Conference will be available after the conference. Order forms also will be available at National Older Adult Conference this fall. The “early bird special” price is $4 pre-paid plus shipping; early bird bulk rate including shipping is $150 for 50 calendars.


Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Contact the editor at or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Tom and Janet Crago, Ellen Hall, Tasha Hornbacker, Janis Pyle, Marcia Shetler, Helen Stonesifer, and Lorele Yager contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with the next regularly scheduled Newsline set for June 7; other special issues may be sent as needed. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Newsline is available and archived at, click on “News.” For more Church of the Brethren news and features, go to and click on “News,” or subscribe to Messenger magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247. To receive Newsline by e-mail or to unsubscribe, go to


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