Newsline for December 5, 2007

December 5, 2007

“…Let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5b).

1) Bethany Seminary trustees welcome new president and new chair.
2) Vital Pastors ‘cohort groups’ report at conference in San Antonio.
3) National Council receives text of social creed for 21st century.
4) Brethren share 300th Anniversary devotional at NCC assembly.
5) CPT gives human rights training to Kurdish security officers in Iraq.
6) Brethren bits: Personnel, position openings, cyclone response, more.

7) Deacon Ministry offers regional training events.
8) 300th Anniversary update: Clarification of plans for ‘service blitz,’ historical exhibit.

9) Why First Church needed a weekly electronic newsletter.
10) Small congregation issues big giving challenge.

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1) Bethany Seminary trustees welcome new president and new chair.

The Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees met on Oct. 26-28 in Richmond, Ind., led by a new chair and a new president. The meeting began with a time of worship and an anointing service for incoming Bethany Seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen. Board chair Ted Flory of Bridgewater, Va., directed the board through the agenda.

The board also welcomed new member Martha Farahat of Oceana, Calif., and accepted with regret the resignation of Jim Hardenbrook of Caldwell, Idaho, as he and his wife, Pam, prepare for mission work in Sudan on behalf of the Church of the Brethren.

The Academic Affairs Committee reported that faculty are considering ways the seminary can respond to recent Annual Conference statements such as “Becoming a Multi-Ethnic Church” and “Reverse Membership Trend.” They also shared a progress report on the search process for two fulltime faculty who will be responsible for the areas of theology, church history, Brethren studies, and the master of arts program. Because of the potential for faculty overload, the board approved an additional search for a half-time position in Brethren studies.

The Institutional Advancement Committee reported that Bethany’s website has been redesigned and includes many new features. The committee announced the launch of two new development initiatives: a Congregational Ambassador program for church relations, and a President’s Associates group for donors.

The board approved a recommendation from the Student and Business Affairs Committee to increase tuition for the 2008-09 fiscal year from $296 to $325 per credit hour. The committee shared a synopsis of the annual questionnaire completed by graduating students for the Association of Theological Schools. The students expressed satisfaction in class size, quality of teaching, and accessibility of faculty. The top five skill areas cited as most improved were ability to conduct worship, knowledge of their own religious tradition, ability to relate social issues to faith, ability to preach well, and ability to use and interpret scripture.

A joint committee of board members, faculty, and staff announced dates for an Inaugural Forum on March 30-31, 2008. More information will be made available.

On Saturday evening, the board invited faculty and staff to a dinner and an envisioning discussion to identify the core values that guide the seminary’s mission. Sunday’s closing session included a report by president Johansen on her first 100 days. She has experienced Bethany as a welcoming community of creative and competent students, faculty, and staff, and has identified three items for development: strengthening internal procedures, clarifying and renewing the seminary’s mission focus, and marketing that mission.

–Marcia Shetler is director of Public Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

2) Vital Pastors ‘cohort groups’ report at conference in San Antonio.

One group looked at postmodernism, another at being missional. Still another examined the balance of worshiping with both head and heart. In all, six groups of pastors studied a variety of questions over the past two years but all with the same ultimate goal: determining the qualities that contribute to pastoral excellence and how to sustain them.

The pastors groups reported their findings during a Vital Pastors conference held Nov. 5-9 at the Oblate Renewal Center in San Antonio, Texas. The conference continued the work of the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program, funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. Dozens of institutions around the country, including the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, received generous grants to make the endeavor possible.

“Lilly asked where can they best invest resources to build up the church, and they settled on pastors,” said Brethren Academy director Jonathan Shively, who led the effort to get one of the grants.

The first four Brethren “cohort” groups made their reports last February. A new class of six cohorts began their study in January of this year, another class begins in January 2008. The final scheduled class of cohorts will begin in January 2009. Three more concluding retreats are planned in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Each cohort group examines a “critical question” related to pastoral ministry, beginning with an immersion experience to study the issue in context. Groups that reported in San Antonio had traveled to the Iona community in Scotland, South Africa, Rome, Texas, Hawaii, and a pastors’ conference in San Diego, Calif.

Many of the questions centered on transformation, both personal and congregational, and on the changing culture in which the church finds itself. As one participant said, “I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be a pastor in this emerging world…and it’s actually a lot of fun.” Another noted, “Fewer people are identifying themselves as Christians…. We can’t just assume there’s respect for Christians and Christianity.” That, he said, has parallels to the pre-Constantine era of the early church.

Most of the cohort groups are geographical, drawing four to six pastors from a particular district or region. One group, though, consisted of four clergy couples who are either serving together in team ministry or each serving separate congregations. Another grouped pastors who are serving churches in college or university settings.

In addition to the group reporting, in blocks of three hours each, the conference also included daily times of worship. Glenn Timmons, co-director of the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program for the Brethren Academy with his wife, Linda, set the tone in the opening service with the reminder, “The reign of God shows up where we least expect it. We want to control outcomes rather than be surprised by grace.”

The next set of Vital Pastors cohort groups will report at a conference in the fall of 2008.

-Walt Wiltschek is editor of “Messenger” magazine.

3) National Council receives text of social creed for 21st century.

Church of the Brethren representatives attended the annual General Assembly of the National Council of Churches (NCC) and Church World Service on Nov. 6-8 in Iselin, N.J. The theme for the meeting was, “Journeys: For We Walk by Faith…” (2 Corinthians 5:7), and time was spent in worship, Bible study, and fellowship, as well as business. The assembly installed new officers and a new general secretary, set in motion plans for a new quadrennium, passed resolutions on social issues, and received the text of “A Social Creed for the 21st Century.”

“A Social Creed for the 21st Century” had been approved by the Governing Board in September. In 1908 the NCC’s predecessor, the Federal Council of Churches, adopted a social creed that addressed issues of the early 20th century such as industrialization, and pledged then “to work together for a better, fairer and more faithful United States.” The NCC has now developed a social creed for the 21st century that addresses globalization, poverty, and violence. “We–individual Christians and churches–commit ourselves to a culture of peace and freedom that embraces nonviolence, nurtures character, treasures the environment, and builds community, rooted in a spirituality of inner growth and outward action,” states the conclusion of the new social creed. The full text of the creed is at

In other business, the assembly reaffirmed the NCC’s commitment to Middle East peace, unanimously passing a statement updating a 1980 Middle East policy. The updated statement calls for “responsible public discourse” about Middle East issues and a focus on issues related to the Israel-Palestine conflict, expresses concern for the drop in the number of Christians in the Middle East, and calls for interfaith sensitivities “devoid of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

The assembly also urged the US House of Representatives to pass legislation recognizing the slaughter of Armenians in 1915 as a genocide, passing a resolution by voice vote with six abstentions; continued to evaluate recovery efforts in the Gulf coast following Hurricane Katrina, receiving a report from the NCC’s Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast; and established a memorial fund honoring Claire Randall, the NCC’s first woman general secretary.

Vicken Aykazian, archbishop of the Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church of America (Eastern), was installed as president of the NCC; Peg Chemberlin, a Moravian clergywoman and executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, was installed as president elect; and Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergyman, educator, and ecumenical leader, was elected and installed as the NCC’s ninth general secretary.

Stanley Noffsinger, the general secretary of the Church of the Brethren General Board, was elected to the NCC Governing Board as vice president at large.

The Brethren participants were elected representatives Nelda Rhoades Clark, Jennie Ramirez, and Marianne Miller Speicher; and staff representatives from the General Board including Noffsinger, Global Mission Partnerships executive director Merv Keeney, and director of Identity and Relations Becky Ullom. Also participating in the meeting as an NCC staff member was Jordan Blevins.

Because the year 2008 signifies a new quadrennium for the NCC, each communion identified its delegates who will serve for the next four years. Church of the Brethren representatives will include Elizabeth Bidgood Enders, Ken Reiman, John (J.D.) Glick, Merv Keeney, Illana Naylor, and Stan Noffsinger. David Metzler and Wendy McFadden will serve on the NCC’s Interfaith Relations Commission from 2008-2011 as well.

4) Brethren share 300th Anniversary devotional at NCC assembly.

Representatives of the Church of the Brethren who attended the annual General Assembly of the National Council of Churches also took part in a traditional event during that gathering, a “communion dinner” during which each denomination comes together to build community among its own ecumenical representatives.

For the past several years, Brethren have joined with representatives from Quaker bodies and the American Baptist Church USA at the communion dinner. At this year’s dinner, general secretary Stan Noffsinger gave each attendee a copy of “Fresh from the Word,” the devotional book published by Brethren Press for the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary. Having a few extra copies, he also gave one to NCC president Michael Livingston.

Livingston received several questions from others about the book, with people asking how they could get a copy. As a result, Noffsinger was invited to a microphone during the General Assembly in order to give information about how to order the book from Brethren Press.

From this, much interest was generated in the 300th Anniversary. Three other denominational leaders requested to be a part of the Committee on Interchurch Relations events during the 2008 Annual Conference: Roy Medley of the American Baptist Churches USA, Stan Hastings of the Alliance of Baptists, and Thomas Swain of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

–Jon Kobel is manager of the office of the general secretary for the General Board.

5) CPT gives human rights training to Kurdish security officers in Iraq.

Venus Shamal, the deputy director of Kurdish Human Rights Watch in Suleimaniya, in northern Iraq, recently invited Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) to assist in the human rights training of security officers from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

She told members of the CPT Iraq team that the director of the security office in Suleimaniya, a former teacher, had begun promoting human rights in his office after a scathing critique of KRG human rights abuses from Amnesty International and the US State Department.

Members of the CPT team in Suleimaniya hesitated to accept the invitation because the training CPT receives does not provide in-depth instruction in international human rights principles developed over the past 60 years. But the CPT team agreed to conduct this short one-hour training in the context of CPT’s own experiences.

Hours before the training was to start, the translator CPT had arranged for the module called to say that her relative was ill and she could not translate that day. She contacted a friend who was an English teacher in the local secondary school. He came to the CPT apartment and spent an hour going over the first three pages of a 10-page document that CPT had prepared before the team had to leave for the training. Clearly, the concepts and vocabulary were new to him.

When the CPT team arrived at the classroom, the training coordinator explained that CPT would have just one hour to teach, translation included. CPT presenters cut sections of their talks, which further confused the translator, but the session turned out to be adequate. Shamal praised Peggy Gish for the stories she had selected from the detainee abuse report the team in Baghdad had written and distributed in 2004 (see “CPT reports on Detainees,” at

Afterwards CPT team members had a chance to visit with some of the officers, who came from various parts of the KRG area. One told them, “Security is a very serious concern for Kurdistan.” A day earlier, CPT had learned that 200 security suspects in four northern governates of Iraq had been detained. These detentions happened on the heels of news that the US military had released 500 detainees from its prisons in Iraq. During the “surge” of the last few months, 10,000 new detainees had been added to the US detention centers in Iraq.

The four-day training culminated in a graduation exercise during which the head of the security office came to hand out the certificates and shake hands. Interestingly, this office is in the process of evaluating CPT’s request for extended visas, a requirement for this project to continue. Shamal has asked CPT to assist with future human rights trainings of security officers.

–Cliff Kindy is a Church of the Brethren member working in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams (Iraq team member Peggy Gish also is Brethren). This report was taken from a CPT press release of Nov. 26. Originally a violence-reduction initiative of the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker), CPT now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of Christian denominations.

6) Brethren bits: Personnel, position openings, cyclone response, more.

  • Pat Papay has announced her retirement from Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) effective April 1, 2008. She was hired as BBT’s general office services support staff in 1995, and since then has been “the cheerful greeter” for the agency for more than 12 years. In addition to operating the switchboard, she has processed mail and mailings, ordered office supplies, coordinated special celebrations of the staff, and performed many other miscellaneous duties. Her future plans include joining her husband, Ron, in more quality time together, and possibly returning to school. BBT will plan a celebration of Papay’s work as April approaches.
  • Ed and Betty Runion and Art and Lois Hermannson have concluded terms of service at the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center as part of the team of volunteer hosts at the Brethren Service Center.
  • Applications are being accepted for the 2008 Youth Peace Travel Team sponsored jointly by the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office, Brethren Witness/Washington Office, and Brethren Volunteer Service of the Church of the Brethren General Board, and by On Earth Peace and the Outdoor Ministries Association. The first Youth Peace Travel Team was formed in the summer of 1991 as a cooperative effort of a number of General Board programs. Since that year a team has been fielded every summer. The team travels to camps throughout the Church of the Brethren to talk with other young people about the Christian message and the Brethren tradition of peacemaking. College-age Brethren young adults between the ages of 19 and 22 will be selected for the 2008 team. A stipend is paid to team members. For a downloadable application form go to Applications are due Feb. 4, 2008. For more information contact the Brethren Witness/Washington Office at 202-546-3202.
  • Brethren Disaster Ministries reports that the Church of the Brethren contributed to an international response to Cyclone Sidr, which hit the southern coast of Bangladesh on Nov. 15. The response was carried out through Church World Service (CWS) and ACT International (Action by Churches Together). CWS said the death toll was more than 3,000, with that number expected to rise. The ACT response began with an initial grant of $50,000, along with a short-term operation to provide family relief packages of food including rice, pulses, oil, salt, and oral dehydration saline sachets. ACT members were to distribute relief packages in the most severely affected locations, with the goal of providing immediate assistance to 7,098 cyclone-affected families representing more than 35,500 people. Special attention was paid to the very poor and destitute, women, children, the elderly, and disabled. “There may be as many as three million survivors who need assistance,” said CWS.
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul and HCI are providing an opportunity for On Earth Peace to earn a commission on each copy of “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories for a Better World” sold from the On Earth Peace website, a fundraiser made possible by On Earth Peace supporter Linda K. Williams who is a co-author of the book. With each purchase, a 20 percent commission comes to On Earth Peace; visit On Earth Peace also has suggested other Christmas-season giving opportunities in its recent newsletter, such as honoring a loved one through a donation to On Earth Peace, which will send the honoree a beautiful holiday card. The newsletter gave examples of what the holiday gifts can accomplish: $20 would cover the cost of an information packet on counter recruitment, $75 would provide scholarship assistance to one person attending a Ministry of Reconciliation workshop, and $1,800 would provide support for one member of next summer’s Youth Peace Travel Team. Contact On Earth Peace, P.O. Box 188, New Windsor, MD 21776.
  • Next year’s courses offered by the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership are open to students in the Training in Ministry and Education for Shared Ministry programs, pastors, and laypeople. The academy is a ministry training partnership of the Church of the Brethren General Board and Bethany Theological Seminary. “Everyday Life in Biblical Times” is offered Jan. 14-18, 2008, at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind., with instructor Stephen Breck Reid. “Jeremiah” is offered Feb. 4-March 15, 2008, online with instructor Susan Jeffers, register through the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC). “Sermon on the Mount” is offered Feb. 7-10 at St. Petersburg (Fla.) Church of the Brethren with instructor Richard Gardner. “Pastor as a Spiritual Being” is offered Feb. 21-24, 2008, at La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren with instructor Paul Grout. “Me, My Church, and Money” is offered March 3-9 at Troy (Ohio) Church of the Brethren with instructor Steve Ganger. “Church Vitality and Evangelism” is offered April 17-20, 2008, at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., with instructor Randy Yoder, register through SVMC. Contact the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership at or 800-287-8822 ext. 1824. To register for Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center courses, contact 717-361-1450 or
  • Middle River Church of the Brethren in New Hope, Va., is celebrating its rebuilt sanctuary following a fire that destroyed sections of the church more than a year ago, according to a report from WVIR-TV of Charlottesville, Va. The fire on Nov. 7, 2006, destroyed the sanctuary roof and the whole building suffered smoke damage. “After 13 months of prayer and about $1.5 million, the new sanctuary now boasts high, wooded ceilings, fine furniture, and a fresh coat of paint,” the report said. The first service in the sanctuary is planned for Sunday, Dec. 9.
  • As of yesterday morning, Oregon and Washington District disaster relief coordinators reported that “all of our vulnerable churches and people of the Oregon and Washington District are okay from the latest wrath of winter weather,” in an e-mail alert. Co-coordinators Nancy Louise Wilkinson and Brent Carlson said that the disaster relief agencies of Washington State will gather teams of volunteers to help clean up flooded homes. “More than 1,000 homes in Lewis County have waist-deep water in the house, and other counties are also affected,” they said. Contact Nancy Louise Wilkinson at 360-848-1827 or, or Brent Carlson at 503-697-7500 or In other news from the district, $4,059.50 was raised by a Disaster Relief Auction at the district conference this year. The money will be used to aid local and national rebuilding projects and help disaster volunteers with transportation expenses.
  • Ten new members have been elected to the Bridgewater (Va.) College Board of Trustees. The group includes four Church of the Brethren members: Carl R. Fike, vice president of O.C. Cluss Lumber in Uniontown, W.Va., and a licensed Church of the Brethren lay speaker; Stephen L. Hollinger, president of Construction Options Inc., and a member of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren; Stephanie LaPrade Naff, church secretary for Mill Creek Church of the Brethren and a member of Southeastern District’s Program and Arrangements Committee; and Ronald E. Sink, a retired treasurer for Norfolk Southern Corp., former board member of Bethany Seminary and active in Church of the Brethren and civic activities in the Roanoke, Va., area.

7) Deacon Ministry offers regional training events.

The deacon story in the Church of the Brethren is mixed, according to a report from the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC). Some Brethren members and congregations regard the deacon ministry as a cherished tradition of caring for the poor, the elderly, and the orphans. Others hold on to memories from the past, of deacons as “enforcers” of rigid behavior codes, such as counseling members on appropriate dress, hair style, and prayer coverings for women.

“However the office of deacon is remembered, it is an office nearly as old as the denomination,” reminds ABC executive director Kathy Reid. “Most importantly, wherever there was an expressed human need, deacons assumed responsibility to address those needs. Thus in this 300th anniversary celebration year, it is timely to review the legacy and character of deacons in our denomination as we enter another century of opportunities to serve and to care.”

ABC is planning a series of regional Deacon Ministry Training Events for the Spring of 2008. Each event will feature Bible study, keynote presentations, multiple workshops, and worship. The keynote speaker will be Jay Gibble, former director of the Association of Brethren Caregivers. Workshops will address issues such as deacon roles and functions, recruitment of new deacons, outreach to all, and the love feast. Cost is $20 per person, and lunch will be provided. Registration materials are available at or call ABC at 800-323-8039.

Following is the schedule of Deacon Ministry Training Events:

  • Plains region: April 12, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at Dallas Center (Iowa) Church of the Brethren, co-sponsored by Spurgeon Manor, a Church of the Brethren retirement center
  • Southwest: April 19, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren
  • Northwest: May 10, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at Olympia, Lacey (Wash.) Community Church of the Brethren; and May 11, 1-6 p.m., at Wenatchee (Wash.) Brethren-Baptist Church
  • East: May 31, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren.

8) 300th Anniversary update: Clarification of plans for ‘service blitz,’ historical exhibit.

The 300th Anniversary Committee has issued a clarification of plans for a “service blitz” and an exhibit of historical artifacts at the 2008 Annual Conference on July 12-16 in Richmond, Va.:

  • A “service blitz” is scheduled for Saturday, July 12, and Monday, July 14. Service projects will be sponsored by the Church of the Brethren. Members of the Brethren Church also may participate. The planning committee includes Rhonda Pittman Gingrich of the 300th Anniversary Committee, Brethren Disaster Ministries director Roy Winter, outgoing director of the General Board’s Workcamp ministry Steve Van Houten, and Virlina District disaster response coordinator Wayne Garst. Participants will be required to register in advance, and there will be a modest fee to cover expenses.
  • Plans for a historical exhibit have changed. Instead of soliciting submissions of Brethren artifacts from individuals, congregations, and districts, the committee has decided to invite each district to bring a display. Districts are encouraged to identify people, places, events, and items that have enriched experiences of Brethren beliefs and practices. Present ministries and future plans that call people to participate in Brethren beliefs and practices should also be included. Displays are to present information in ways that will teach a variety of people, especially children. In addition, a few agencies and organizations whose mission is directly releated to preserving and sharing Brethren heritage will be invited to bring an exhibit.

9) Why First Church needed a weekly electronic newsletter.

York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren employs many kinds of publicity. There are pulpit announcements, weekly bulletins, monthly newsletters, pamphlets, posters, a website, periodic e-mails, word of mouth, semi-annual reports, and others. What seemed to be lacking was an organized approach to rapidly communicate current news to the congregation.

The thought came, why doesn’t the church electronically communicate more often, perhaps daily or weekly, to its members? How would church members feel if they were more knowledgeable about what is happening in the congregation, and if they received news relatively quickly? Why not have someone, a “reporter” for the congregation, collect information from the various groups in the church, condense it into something to be shared with the entire congregation, and serve as editor for the newsletter? Why not use the same technology that many of us use outside of church, namely e-mail? And for those who do not regularly use computers, why not print out the weekly news for pick up on Sunday mornings?

This approach of a weekly electronic newsletter is now being used by our church. Our church recognizes that a more informed congregation is more responsive and committed. Here’s how we have carried it out:

The reporter is neither the preacher, nor the board chair, nor some other person in church governance. The reporter is someone to whom the pastors, church leaders, and individual members can come to with their tidbits of information, knowing that it will be released not more than seven days later. The reporter need not be a professional, just someone who wants to keep lines of communication open in the congregation. Retired people with word processing skills are good candidates. The key is that the reporter and the church leaders have a good working relationship so that information can flow quickly and easily.

We picked a Friday e-mail date for several reasons. First, most of our meetings are held early in the week, so information can be collected in time to make a Friday release date and be timely. Second, the newsletter can serve as a reminder for church on the following Sunday–it helps jog our memories to prepare for worship and study, just two days away.

How do we gather e-mail addresses? Over the past few years, our church has developed a list of all members and friends who have e-mail. As a help to the pastors, the reporter maintains a master list of the e-mail addresses.

What technique do we use to send the newsletter? For ease in mailing, the e-mail address list is split into three equally-sized groups. E-mails are then sent in three batches.

How does the reporter make contact with the various church groups and committees? Now that the newsletter is maturing, a few church leaders take initiative to contact the reporter. In most instances, however, the reporter contacts them, and stays aware of meeting schedules. The leaders of groups provide information either over the phone or by e-mail. These busy people are happy that someone is communicating on their behalf.

How much time does it takes each week? Maybe three to five hours.

–Larry Gibble is a member of York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren and serves as reporter and editor of York First’s electronic newsletter.

10) Small congregation issues big giving challenge.

Who said, “Be careful what you pray for, because you might get it”? Be careful what you propose to a congregation because it might happen.

So it was at the Sunnyslope Brethren/United Church of Christ in Wenatchee, Wash., jointly affiliated with the Church of the Brethren and the United Church of Christ. One member of the congregation was inspired by a recent letter from Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren General Board, and Ken Neher, director of Stewardship and Donor Development. The letter raised concerns about the General Board’s $150,000 giving shortfall for 2007, and the subsequent $15,000 offering received at the General Board’s October meeting.

This member proposed to the congregation that the next Sunday they take a special offering to “do our part in addressing that deficit.” The congregation decided this was something it indeed ought to do. A women’s group in the church sponsors an annual Christmas Bazaar and said, “Great! We’ll match whatever the congregation raises.”

On Sunday, Nov. 25, the special offering was received and totaled a few dollars over $1,300. With the Christmas Bazaar match, it became $2,700 toward erasing the General Board ministries’ giving shortfall for the year.

Now, for the rest of the story. Sunnyslope is a congregation of just 55 to 65 worshipers, but we are serious about challenging the rest of the 1,030 congregations and fellowships in the denomination to do something similar yet in December. We feel this was a God-inspired miracle, and believe other churches could be similarly inspired when they hear our story.

–Galen Miller is a retired pastor at the Sunnyslope Church. In the interest of full disclosure, he also is father-in-law to Ken Neher, but claims that he had the initiative for a special offering going “before he even heard about it!”

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Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Brent Carlson, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Cori Hahn, Mary K. Heatwole, Donna March, Kathy Reid, Becky Ullom, and Nancy Louise Wilkinson contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for Dec. 19. 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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