Newsline Extra for November 21, 2007

November 21, 2007

“…Serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received” (1 Peter 4:10b)

ROUND-UP OF DISTRICT NEWS
1) Atlantic Northeast District meets on theme, ‘God Is Faithful.’
2) Atlantic Southeast District celebrates its 83rd conference.
3) Middle Pennsylvania District Conference affirms new mission plan.
4) W. Pennsylvania District challenges members to be salt and light.
5) Virlina District celebrates 36th district conference.

FEATURES
6) ‘Gathering’ of Western Plains District is centerpiece of revival effort.
7) ‘Come and Walk with Jesus’: The Footprints story.

300th ANNIVERSARY UPDATE
8) 300th Anniversary update: Bits and pieces from the districts.

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1) Atlantic Northeast District meets on theme, ‘God Is Faithful.’

Atlantic Northeast District held its 2007 conference on Oct. 12-13 in Leffler Chapel at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Norman D. Yeater, free minister of Chiques Church of the Brethren near Manheim, Pa., served as moderator. The theme was “God Is Faithful,” with the scripture reference Philippians 1:6b, “The one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”

Friday evening began with an inspirational time of music led by Hanoverdale (Pa.) Church of the Brethren’s worship team. Pastor Belita Mitchell of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, who served as the 2007 Annual Conference moderator, shared a motivational message. J. Becker Ginder, Clem Rosenberger, and Curtis Ziegler (posthumously) were recognized for 50 years in ordained ministry. The Ridgeway Community Brass Ensemble played during the collection of the offering. The $1,740.50 received will be divided equally between the Mission Church Support Fund and District Ministries.

Moderator Yeater led delegates in approval of a slate of nominees and a budget of $631,345, in addition to receiving a variety of reports. An informative DVD and interviews highlighted district programs. District leaders were recognized, with new leaders in the district during the last year introduced. Newly licensed ministers, recently ordained ministers, and pastors serving new congregations were showcased in a power point display. Puerta del Cielo under the leadership of Ramon and Gloria Torres was recognized as a new congregation.

The meeting consecrated Paul Steiner, retired pastor of Mountville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, as the moderator for next year’s District Conference, to be held on Oct 10-11, 2008 in Leffler Chapel at Elizabethtown College.

–Doris Frysinger serves as secretary and newsletter editor for Atlantic Northeast District.

2) Atlantic Southeast District celebrates its 83rd conference.

The 83rd District Conference of Atlantic Southeast District was held at St. Petersburg (Fla.) First Church of the Brethren. The conference began with two seminars on Oct. 12 and continued through the weekend.

The seminars were held on the topic of “Mother-Daughter Church Planting,” led by Ray Hileman and Wayne Sutton and an interview with Ludovic St. Fleur, pastor of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Haitian Church of the Brethren) in Miami, Fla.; and on “Biblical and Brethren Peace Heritage,” presented by Jean and Phil Lersch.

The opening evening worship service was led by Carol Mason, coordinator for the General Board’s Congregational Life Team, Area 3. A mime group from the local area also performed two numbers. A tour of the Raymond James Home Office, an extensive art collection of paintings and sculptures, all from living artists, preceded the worship service.

During morning worship on Saturday six people were licensed to ministry, five of them coming from the Miami Haitian church: Founa Augustin, Fred Belony, Jean Nixon Aubel, Henry Pierre, Servillia Attelus, along with Leah Hileman from Christ the Servant Church of the Brethren in Cape Coral, Fla.

In business sessions, moderator-elect Wayne Sutton led the consecration service for the 43 delegates who were present. A report from executive minister Martha Beach kicked off the district’s 300th Anniversary Celebration, challenging the district to “Lighten Up” by losing 300 pounds before the next conference. Those not needing to lose weight will sponsor those who do by contributing a monetary amount to help pay the expenses for volunteers traveling to disaster sites. Another challenge to conferencegoers was for each church to do 300 hours of some type of disaster response work.

Beach also thanked all of the churches who committed to self-allocation. For the fourth year in a row, all of those making commitments either met or exceeded the stated amount. All of the church openings also have been filled.

The delegates voted to accept the recommendation of the District Board that all undesignated gifts to the district be divided in four ways, to be shared among the Church Development Council, District Board Operating Account, Ministry Scholarships, and Brethren Foundation. A pie auction to benefit the Church Development Council raised more than $1,100, with $125 being the highest price paid for one pie.

Certificates were presented to those in ministry, for every five years of service. Receiving certificates were Cecil Hess, Terry Grove, and Keith Simmons.

John Mueller completed his term as District Board chair at this meeting. For the past year, he has been commuting more than 700 miles to District Board meetings while he and his wife, Mary, have responded to a call to be disaster response coordinators in Chalmette, La., for Brethren Disaster Ministries.

The incoming officers were installed by Mueller: James Longenecker, moderator; Charles McGuckin, chair of the District Board; Keith Simmons, vice chair of the board; Jim Baker, at-large member of the board; Jerry Hartwell, in a second term as director of ministry; and Jose Calleja, director of witness.

Carol Mason wrapped up the conference by encouraging those in attendance to “go out and sow peace.”

–Martha R. Beach is district executive minister of Atlantic Southeast District.

3) Middle Pennsylvania District Conference affirms new mission plan.

Middle Pennsylvania District Conference was hosted Oct. 19-20 by Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Wayne Brockway, pastor of New Enterprise (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, served as moderator. The Everett volunteers led by Leah Pepple, on-site coordinator, welcomed the conference with hospitality. Jolene Black of New Enterprise created and designed the conference logo using the theme, “Follow Me…Where? How? Now?”

Friday evening featured a Ministers’ Banquet and a district Pastors and Spouses Choir led by Terry Hershberger and accompanied by Earla Shehan-Reffner. The Adult Choir of New Enterprise also shared music. Brockway gave the message for opening worship, asking the question whether we have become too comfortable in our churches. “Following Jesus: Where?”was his title based on Luke 9:23-26. Are we willing to follow Jesus wherever he would have us go? Brockway asked.

In business sessions, 51 churches were represented with 160 delegates, and 144 nondelegates also registered. The delegates affirmed an aggressive 2008 Mission Plan (2008 budget) which calls for a 7.6 percent increase over 2007. Prior to the conference delegates, pastors, board chairs, and treasurers were asked to take the increases and ministry priorities seriously. In order to meet the goals of the plan, congregations were asked to increase their giving levels to $25 per member. Churches already at or above that level were asked to consider a $5 per member increase. Most of the increases represented in the plan are seen in the addition of a part-time youth position (up to 10 hours per week) and additional expenses associated with an upcoming combined District Conference and Heritage Fair planned for Sept. 26-28, 2008, at Camp Blue Diamond to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of the Brethren.

The Youth Ministry Team and Connie Maclay, pastor of Beech Run Church of the Brethren in Mapleton Depot, Pa., shared with the delegate body on Saturday morning followed by an anointing and commissioning service for the Youth Ministry Team. Joel Rhodes of Stone Church and Kay Guyer of Woodbury (Pa.) Church of the Brethren also shared stories of their workcamp experiences this past summer. Doc O’Connor of Point Man Ministries shared ideas of how congregations can support returning military veterans as part of On Earth Peace’s Welcome Home Project.

The Youth Ministry offering totaled $1,724, while a Pennies for Congregational Ministries offering totaled $5,027.30. Gas cards, phone cards, and pajamas were collected for Your Safe Haven, Inc.

Several ministers were recognized for ministry milestones. Recognized for 50 or more years of service were Dick Landrum of Huntingdon (Pa.) Stone Church of the Brethren, Michael Olivieri of Albright Church of the Brethren in Roaring Spring, Pa. (52 years), and Ron Hershberger of State College (Pa.) University Baptist and Brethren Church (56 years). Patricia Muthler was recognized for completing the Training in Ministry program. Michael Benner was recognized for his graduation from Bethany Theological Seminary this year.

In leadership positions, James Ake of the Stone Church was affirmed for another year as treasurer. A slate for district leadership was affirmed including Lori Knepp of the Everett Church as moderator designate. She will assist Robert Sell at the 2008 combined District Conference and Heritage Fair. Other leaders affirmed were Dennis Brumbaugh and Dale Dowdy for the Gifts Discernment Committee; Pat Gong for the Program and Arrangements Committee; Kelly Ritchey for the Audit Committee; Charles Eldredge for Standing Committee; Sara Miller, Brian Creps, and Dale Roth for the Congregational Ministry Coordinating Team; and Donald Brumbaugh for Pennsylvanians Concerned about Alcohol Problems.

The Conference concluded with moderator Brockway consecrating Robert Sell as moderator for 2008.

4) W. Pennsylvania District challenges members to be salt and light.

Western Pennsylvania District held its 141st annual District Conference at Smith Hall/Ferguson Theater on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh in Greensburg, Pa., on Oct. 27. Moderator Reba B. Johnson of Indiana, Pa., challenged the approximately 226 participants with the theme “You Are the Salt of the Earth…You Are the Light of the World.”

Worship and music were interspersed throughout the business of the day. Insight sessions were held in the morning. The subjects included an overview of the work of two agencies of the denomination–the General Board and Brethren Benefit Trust, a presentation about the mission work of the denomination’s Sudan Initiative, and a presentation about the work of Camp Harmony, the district’s camp facility.

A highlight of the conference was an auction of three hours of district minister Ronald Beachley’s time. This was done to encourage attendance at the district’s second annual auction that took place on Nov. 3. Congregations and individuals also brought enough Gift of the Heart Kits for disaster relief, to send a van load to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

In business session, the budget of $189,259 for 2008 was adopted by 194 delegates representing 53 congregations of the district, which has its office near Jerome. The district is comprised of 69 churches and one fellowship, with a membership of over 9,500.

Robert R. Stein of Chalk Hill was installed as moderator of the district for the next year. William A. Waugh of Greensburg was named moderator-designate. Twelve people were called to the district leadership team: David A. Baker, AnnaBelle Coleman, Janice Kaltenbaugh, Linda L Reininger, Patti Shaulis, Larry E. Walker, Mildred Z. Hartzell, Phillip A. King, Homer H. Marshall, Guy L. Myers, Shirley Baker, and Gary N. Weaver. Myrna P. Baer was called as district delegate to Standing Committee. Charles B. Statler was named to the Board of Trustees for the Brethren Home Community Windber, Pa. Called to the board of directors of Camp Harmony located near Hooversville, Pa., were John E. Eash, Linda L. Reininger, and Patti Shaulis. Two people were called to serve on the district’s gifts discernment team: Bertha Hironimus and Patricia M. Marshall.

–Suzanne Moss is secretary for Western Pennsylvania District.

5) Virlina District celebrates 36th district conference.

The 36th Virlina District Conference was held at Bonsack (Va.) Baptist Church on Nov. 9-10, on the theme, “CELEBRATE: Surrendered to GOD, Transformed in CHRIST, Empowered by SPIRIT” (Philippians 4:4-8). Total registration was 534 people, with 249 delegates (including 72 pastors) and 285 nondelegates from 78 congregations. These participated in the worship, fellowship, and discernment of the district under the leadership of moderator W. Gregory Broyles of Oak Grove Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va.

Keynote speaker for the Friday and Saturday evening worship services was Timothy P. Harvey, chair of the Church of the Brethren General Board and pastor of Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke. The Friday evening service was enhanced by a duet, “Glory to the Lord, Our God,” by Linda Clague and Fred Porter, as well as instrumental selections by musicians drawn from the Central and Oak Grove congregations. More than 460 people were present for the Friday evening service.

Saturday morning devotional services were led by Broyles as district moderator, and featured the lighting of a candle for each congregation and meeting point. On Saturday evening, an inspiring service was highlighted by a choir of youth and young adults from throughout the district. Attendance for the Saturday evening service was 208.

A Ministers and Spouses Banquet was held on Friday evening at Cloverdale (Va.) Church of the Brethren, with 65 people in attendance and Jim Beckwith, moderator of the 2008 Annual Conference and pastor of Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, as the featured speaker. Bob Gross, executive director of On Earth Peace, was the leader of the Peace Affairs Breakfast which preceded the district conference on Saturday morning.

In business sessions, the district recognized Una Nueva Vida En Cristo Fellowship of Willis, Va., and seated the fellowship delegates. New business included approval of the Master Site Plan for Camp Bethel. This comprehensive plan details the 100 Year Vision previously adopted, and will guide the transformation of the camp over coming generations. The district also approved a District Board budget of approximately $308,000 for 2008. Delegates also heard that the Camp Bethel budget for 2008 will be $617,610. Offerings of $3,465.04 were received for the expenses of the District Conference.

Twenty-two individuals were called to leadership positions including E. Patrick Starkey of Ninth Street Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., as moderator-elect. Rosalie R. Wood was called as clerk; Roger G. Stultz was called as district representative to Standing Committee; W. Gregory Broyles was called as trustee of Bridgewater (Va.) College; Donna Jamison and Judy D. Mills were called to the Program and Arrangements Committee; Dewey V. Broyles, Sandra H. Layman, and James R. Worline were called to the Nominating and Personnel Committee; Michael G. Battle, Sandra Sue Bolton, Jane Fralin Grisso, Mark L. Harmon, William J. Hinton Sr., Gerald L. Hylton, Chuck Martin, Lenoria Naff, Michael L. Pugh, Claude C. Shell, and Harry W. Shelton were called to the District Board; Terry Harris and Amanda Naff were called to the Outdoor Ministries Committee.

Delegates heard reports that Cathy S. Huffman will continue to serve as the District Board chair for 2007-08. Other members of the Executive Committee are Ronald Sink as vice-chair, J. Hebron Quesenberry as Commission on Ministry chair, Gary L. Basham as Commission of Stewards chair, Kathy Otey as Commission on Nurture chair, Jerry Wayne Naff as Commission on Witness chair, Wayne Bailey as Outdoor Ministries Committee chair, and Roy A. McVey as Church Extension Committee chair.

Reports from the district staff were received, and an entertaining and an informative District Board report titled “Are You Smarter Than a District Executive?” was presented by chair Cathy S. Huffman. Other reports were received from district committees and other institutions of the district and denomination. A report on pastoral placement revealed that 26 congregations, fellowships, and projects have been involved in the pastoral placement process in the year ending Sept. 30. Fourteen new pastors in 15 congregations were named and introduced. The conference honored Donald Kline for 59 years of ministerial service and Kermit P. Flora for 74 years of ministerial service.

The 37th Virlina District Conference will be held Nov. 14-15, 2008. Vernon E. Baker, a member of Topeco Church of the Brethren in Floyd County, Va., will serve as the moderator.

–David Shumate is district executive minister for Virlina District.

6) ‘Gathering’ of Western Plains District is centerpiece of revival effort.

For a third straight year, Brethren in Western Plains District met together to celebrate the transformation occurring in the district and to gain new tools and support for the work ahead. Called “The Gathering,” the annual retreat at a conference center in Salina, Kan., is the centerpiece of a larger renewal and revitalization effort for many of the district’s 38 congregations.

About 300 people attended this year’s event on Oct. 26-28, engaging in worship, plenary sessions, workshops, and fellowship. Events for children and youth were held concurrently.

Eight congregations entered into a “covenant process” with the district in 2005, eight more in 2006, and another five this year. The congregations each appoint a transformation steering team to work at discernment and to set goals, and each receives coaching from the district. The Gathering offers a chance for the congregations to come together, learn, and share about their journeys.

For some congregations, the change has been incremental. For others, it has been fairly dramatic–such as the Independence congregation in southeastern Kansas, which has freed its pastor to spend most of his time leading disaster relief efforts for the area that was struck by severe flooding earlier this year. The Independence youth group now has about 50 participants.

Other congregations also have seen growth or have become significantly involved in community ministries. A new DVD created by Chris Stover-Brown, shown at the Gathering, featured four of those stories.

Highlights of the weekend included messages from Bethany Theological Seminary staff member and author Fred Bernhard, and 2007 Annual Conference moderator Belita Mitchell; a session on worship led by Kim Bontrager of First Mennonite Brethren Church of Wichita, Kan.; and a concert by Seth Hendricks, who coordinated music at the 2006 National Youth Conference.

A fuller report on Western Plains’ transformation emphasis will appear in the January issue of “Messenger” magazine.

–Walt Wiltschek is editor of the Church of the Brethren’s “Messenger” magazine.

7) ‘Come and Walk with Jesus’: The Footprints story.

Who would have ever imagined that the choice of “Come and Walk with Jesus” as the theme for the 2007 District Conference of Western Plains District would help create an amazing new ministry?

Every year the committee that plans the conference chooses a theme, and worship centers are created to reflect the theme. This year, committee member Cheryl Mishler contacted Connie Rhodes, from Newton (Kan.) Church of the Brethren, and asked if she would consider making the worship centers. What followed was nothing short of divine intervention.

Connie spent time thinking and praying, and thinking and praying some more, about what she could do to help carry the conference theme over into the business meetings and worship. Finally, she started creating the worship center: wonderful works of art around the theme of footprints.

Each painting ended up in the shape of a foot. Each painting was created on plain white corrugated cardboard. In addition, Connie provided scripture references for each painting as well as her own personal thoughts about each painting.

Here is what she said regarding “The Footprints,” as they are now called: “I left the cardboard footprint posters free hand-cut, with all the nicks, tears, and uneven rough edges, because life is full of nicks, cuts, roughness, and yet smooth and straight at other times. Especially walking in Jesus’ footprints…it’s a good reminder to us that it’s not so much the situation that will be remembered…but our reaction to it! And that this gives us character of the soul.”

Connie’s wonderful paintings have had an impact on conference attendees. The beauty of each painting, the spiritual impression, and the interpretation that each person took from the paintings was amazing. We were truly blessed to have Connie share her God-given talent with us that weekend of district conference.

One of the ways the district has decided to carry on “The Footprints” ministry is to offer the paintings as note cards. Profits from the sale of the note cards will benefit the ministries of Western Plains District. Each set of note cards contains 18 cards, including the 17 Footprints paintings and a card of the 2007 Western Plains District Conference logo. Each card features the name of the painting, the scripture reference, and Connie’s personal reflection, with the inside of the card left blank. Each set of note cards is $25 plus $4.60 shipping. Order from http://www.rochestercommunitycob.org/.

–Terry Smalley is a member of Rochester Community Church of the Brethren in Topeka, Kan. (formerly Topeka Church of the Brethren).

8) 300th Anniversary update: Bits and pieces from the districts.

  • Michigan District is holding “Heritage Car Caravans” as part of its celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Brethren movement. The first caravans were held Oct. 13, 20, and 27. “We had a GREAT TIME today on the first of these journeys to visit the Churches of the Brethren in Michigan,” reported district executive minister Marie Willoughby in an e-mail note. “There were 15 of us from four congregations who traveled. Each church we visited hosted us extremely well with people there to tell about the church, give a tour, and offer refreshments. We were at Sugar Ridge, Onekama, Marilla, and Lakeview. And we made a stop at the district office.” More car caravan trips are planned for next year.
  • Northern Indiana District’s 300th Anniversary Celebration has been scheduled for April 20, 2008, at West Goshen (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. In more anniversary news from the district, it is sponsoring with a charter bus to the 300th Anniversary Celebration at next summer’s Annual Conference in Richmond, Va. Middlebury Church of the Brethren members Don and Patti Weirich of Donatti Tours are planning the special charter package, which will include highlights en route such as a stop in Lancaster County, Pa., to see “In the Beginning” at Sight and Sound’s Millennium Theatre, and a driving tour of Washington, D.C. Cost of the package is $325 (registration and lodging while at Annual Conference will be at the individual’s expense). For more information contact theweirichs@verizon.net or 574-825-2955.
  • Northern Ohio District is inviting each church to create a block for its 300th anniversary commemorative quilt. In addition to a block from each congregation, the district is seeking the signature of all pastors–ordained, licensed, and retired–for a border around the outside of the quilt.
  • Middle Pennsylvania District is planning a combined District Conference and Heritage Fair for 2008. The event will be held Sept. 26-28, 2008, at Camp Blue Diamond to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of the Church of the Brethren. Plans are underway for a “Big-Tent Meeting,” a Friday night “sing through the 300 years of hymnody” with Nancy Faus, worship on Saturday evening with Andy Murray, and a Sunday morning service.
  • Virlina District’s 300th Anniversary celebration committee is developing plans for volunteers to make a five-minute “Happy Birthday” celebration visit with each congregation during a Sunday morning worship time between Nov. 1 and Feb. 29. The visits will be an opportunity for the district to share a greeting during the anniversary celebration and to encourage each church to develop special local plans. Host congregations may choose to make the anniversary theme the focus of the worship service on the Sunday of the visit, or plan an all-church birthday luncheon with a birthday cake and all the trimmings, or use one of several audiovisual anniversary resources available from Brethren Press.

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Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for Dec. 5. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

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