Newsline Extra for July 3, 2008

“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008”

“But I say to you, love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:44a).


1) Peace witness is scheduled at Annual Conference in Richmond.
2) Annual Conference bits: Mission breakfast, bookstore items.


3) 300th Anniversary update: Death Row Support Project marks 30 years of solidarity and support.
4) 300th Anniversary resource: ‘Brethren Brush with Greatness.’
5) 300th Anniversary resource: ‘Alexander Mack: A Man Who Rippled the Waters.’
6) 300th Anniversary bits and pieces.

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1) Peace witness is scheduled at Annual Conference in Richmond.

The Brethren Witness/Washington Office will lead a public rally for nonviolence at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Richmond, Va., on the afternoon of July 15. In partnership with the Richmond Peace Education Center and other peace groups in the area, the Tuesday afternoon event will call for an end to the violence of current wars and focus on the need for direct conversation and mediation with Iran.

The event will begin with a march from the Greater Richmond Convention Center, stepping off at 4:45 p.m. Participants will begin with prayer, and then walk to the Richmond City Plaza where they will be greeted by speakers, music, prayer, and drama. Organizers are Phil Jones, director of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, and Adria Scharf, director of the Richmond Peace Center. The event will close by 6 p.m.

Conference participants are encouraged to join in support of the Church of the Brethren’s 2004 and 2006 resolutions against the Iraq War, and to witness to 300 years of Brethren heritage as peacemakers. Organizers hope that Brethren can once again give faithful witness to being a peace church, and work in faithful partnership with area peacemakers toward a common goal.

In addition, plans are being made to exhibit the “Eyes Wide Open” display as part of the peace witness. The display was featured at Annual Conference in Charleston, W.Va., some years ago, and included a symbolic display of the boots representing the American soldiers who had been killed in the Iraq war. Since then the number of casualties in Iraq has grown to over 4,000, and the display can no longer be shown in its entirety. Individual states have developed their own displays. It is planned for the Virginia display to be at Annual Conference in Richmond as a visual memorial to the more than 100 Virginian men and women who have been killed in Iraq, as well as the thousands of Iraqi and ally casualties.

More information will be available at the Brethren Witness/Washington Office booth at the Exhibit Hall at Annual Conference in Richmond.

–Phil Jones is director of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.

2) Annual Conference bits: mission breakfast, bookstore items.

  • The Brethren World Missions breakfast at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Richmond, Va., on July 15 will feature a leader from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Breakfast speaker David Garnuwa is president of BEST (Brethren Evangelism Support Trust), an organization of Nigerian business leaders who work to impact communities for Christ through their local churches. About 25 members of EYN are expected to attend the breakfast, according to an announcement from Brethren World Missions.
  • The Brethren Press bookstore at Annual Conference will offer a variety of items commemorating the 300th Anniversary of the Brethren movement. Items displaying the 300th Anniversary logo include 13-ounce glass mugs ($10.95), polo shirts ($39.95 most sizes or $42.95 XXL), keychains ($5), and souvenir pins ($3.50). Some items are more whimsical: two styles of t-shirts will be available, one with the message “MACK IS BACK” illustrated with a Warhol-like graphic of the Brethren founder, and another with the message “Mack ’08 — 1708-2008” ($16 for most sizes, $18 for XXL). Small drawstring sport packs also feature the “MACK IS BACK” image ($10). When ordering these through the Brethren Press order line 800-441-3712, a shipping and handling charge will be added to the listed price.

3) 300th Anniversary update: Death Row Support Project marks 30 years of solidarity and support.

The Death Row Support Project was birthed from the criminal justice program of the Washington Office of the Church of the Brethren 30 years ago. Since its beginning in 1978, it has followed the path of many other Church of the Brethren-initiated efforts: it now has participants from all over the world and from many different denominations.

The project began at a time when the death penalty returned to the forefront of political debate in the United States, after a five-year period in which the constitutionality of the death penalty was under scrutiny. There had been no executions for 10 years. There were, however, 400 people who had been sentenced to death by a few states who had refused to let go of the death penalty.

The twofold purpose of the project was, and continues to be, to “visit” those in prison, following the call of Jesus, and to provide a way for those outside of the criminal justice system to be educated about the realities of the death penalty. Interested people are asked to begin by writing a letter to someone on death row, reaching out in friendship.

Some participants have been able to visit their friends on death row. Once, in the Florida State Prison visiting room, a man from Texas and a couple from Minnesota met each other and discovered that they were both there because of the Death Row Support Project!

The death penalty is an issue that can be approached from many different directions. Most Death Row Support Project participants simply write letters. Others have become more involved. One couple testified at a resentencing hearing for their friend; another witnessed the execution of his pen pal. An elderly white woman makes an annual trek from California to Ohio to visit the black man whom she calls “brother.” Sunday school classes have “adopted” a death row prisoner, making it possible to send small amounts of money in addition to writing letters.

A special calling is required to write to someone on death row. Not all people are easy to write to. Some individuals have been on death row for almost 30 years. Others will have sentences reduced and be in prison the rest of their lives. Some will become close family friends, and then be executed.

In spite of the challenges, as is often the case when the Spirit calls us, there is much reward in this important work of reaching out to “the least of these.”

–Rachel Gross is one of the founders of the Death Row Support Project, along with her husband, Bob Gross, and continues as volunteer staff. Go to for more information.

4) 300th Anniversary resource: ‘Brethren Brush with Greatness.’

Frank Ramirez spins tales and Kermon Thomasson draws humorous illustrations of 32 individuals whose lives have touched the Brethren in a new book from Brethren Press titled “Brethren Brush with Greatness.”

Abraham Lincoln, Annie Oakley, Daniel Boone, Nathan Leopold, William Stafford, Andrew Young, James Earl Jones, and many, many more famous people make their appearances in the 150-page paperback. The book tells about famous people who were somehow related to the Brethren; Brethren who, themselves, became famous; and famous people who, legend has it, were members of the Church of the Brethren.

Author Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and the author of numerous books, among them “The Meanest Man in Patrick County and Other Unlikely Brethren Heroes.” Illustrator Kermon Thomasson of Henry County, Va., served for 20 years as editor of the Church of the Brethren’s “Messenger” magazine.

Order the book from Brethren Press for $15.95 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712. It also may be purchased at the Brethren Press bookstore at Annual Conference.

5) 300th Anniversary resource: ‘Alexander Mack: A Man Who Rippled the Waters.’

A new children’s book about the life of Alexander Mack Sr. has been published for the 300th Anniversary of the Brethren movement. “Alexander Mack: A Man Who Rippled the Waters” is written by Myrna Grove and illustrated by Mary Jewell.

The book is written especially for children ages 8-12, and is a biography of the first minister and organizer of the Brethren. Jewell, who is a direct descendant of Mack, has illustrated it with 50 oil paintings, offering “a moving tribute to the spirit of our church’s founder who sacrificed to bring us another way of living based on New Testament principles,” said a release. Special features include a timeline of Mack’s life, an 18th century German map, and a bibliography of suggested reading for older children and adults.

A book signing is scheduled for Sunday, July 13, 4-5 p.m. at the Brethren Press bookstore at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Richmond, Va. The 64-page hardback book will be available for purchase at the Conference bookstore, or may be ordered through Brethren Press for $22 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712.

In addition, plans are for one of the paintings from the book to illustrate the Annual Conference moderator’s sermon in Richmond on Saturday evening, July 12. Go to or for information.

6) 300th Anniversary bits and pieces.

  • Germantown Church of the Brethren in Philadelphia, Pa., the oldest Brethren congregation and the “mother church” of the Brethren, celebrated its 285th anniversary with the dedication of a new Family Life Center on June 1. The congregation has been working for some time to create the new center by renovating a warehouse building located next door to the church and parsonage. The dedication ceremony was “a wonderful mix of ethnicity and faith and service,” said Craig Smith, Atlantic Northeast District executive minister. “It was a wonderful day.” The intercultural congregation is pastored by Richard Kyerematen.
  • Pipe Creek Church of the Brethren in Union Bridge, Md., is celebrating the 250th anniversary of its founding. Pipe Creek Fellowship was organized in 1758 and is considered the “mother church” of the Eastern District of Maryland, said an announcement from the church’s Historical Committee. A day of celebration has been planned for Sept. 28. Worship will begin at 10 a.m. the “old-time” way with no musical instruments and lined hymns–progressing to a more modern-day service with piano, organ, and choir. The church hopes to have former pastors participate with a short message. Period dress is of choice. A catered hot meal will follow. The afternoon service will begin at 2:30 p.m. and will feature the congregation’s youth band, and former and present church families and those in Brethren Volunteer Service sharing remembrances of Pipe Creek. The church invites everyone who would like to attend. “Help us celebrate our 250 years of service to the Lord,” said the announcement. Respond by Sept. 1 to Beverly Maring at 500 Clear Ridge Rd., Union Bridge, MD 21791; or 410-848-8149.
  • Lewiston (Minn.) Church of the Brethren is making plans for its 150th anniversary celebration the weekend of Sept. 13-14.
  • Palmona Park Community Church of the Brethren in North Fort Myers, Fla., this year is celebrating 55 years in its present location.
  • Online registration is now available for the Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) 60th Anniversary Celebration to be held Sept. 26-28 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Visit to register. If you do not have Internet access, call the BVS office for assistance. Also in celebration of the 60th anniversary of BVS, a limited edition polo shirt with an embroidered 60th anniversary logo is available for $30. Shirts will be available at Annual Conference, National Young Adult Conference, National Older Adult Conference, and the BVS 60th Celebration. For home delivery there is an additional $5 shipping fee. The BVS office can be contact at 800-323-8039 ext. 410.
  • Nearly 250 people attended all or part of the 300th Anniversary Celebration sponsored by the 13 congregations and fellowships of the Church of the Brethren in Floyd County, Va. The celebration took place on June 14 in the Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren’s new 3,500 square foot social hall, according to a report from Virlina District. The celebration included hymns from the 1901 “Brethren Hymnal,” and the singing of the Archie Naff Family, the Floyd County Ministers, Lester and Judy Weddle, and Statement (a young bluegrass gospel band). Among the speakers were Margaret Hubbard, Elbert Lee Naff, Sr., Roy U. Turpin, and district executive minister David K. Shumate. The event has been the only area gathering to celebrate the 300th Anniversary within the district, and was initiated by a committee from Red Oak Grove Church of the Brethren but grew to include the entire county.
  • The Floyd County, Va., churches also have created a cookbook in celebration of the 300th Anniversary and as a fundraising project for the district’s Hispanic church. The 247-page “What’s Cooking with the Floyd County Brethren?” includes some recipes in both English and Spanish, and is available for $14 from the Virlina District Resource Center. Call 540-362-1816.
  • Fairview Church of the Brethren in Unionville, Iowa, has been celebrating the 300th Anniversary of the denomination all year, according to a note in the Northern Plains District e-mail newsletter. The church’s anniversary projects have included sending 300 notes of appreciation and encouragement to Brethren volunteers, pastors, and church employees; working to memorize 300 Bible verses; and working toward the goal of making 300 Christian Care Calls. The 300th Anniversary Calendars and the anniversary devotional book from Brethren Press, “Fresh from the Word,” have been distributed to every family in the congregation. Brethren Heritage was the subject of an eight-week Bible study on Sunday evenings this spring. The church choir has emphasized Brethren heritage stories and music in worship. Youth attended a heritage conference and four members of the church will be attending a heritage tour to Germany later this summer. Most recently, the Fairview congregation surpassed a goal of collecting 300 food items for the local “Lord’s Cupboard” pantry, when 314 items were delivered in June.
  • Prairie City (Iowa) Church of the Brethren has been celebrating the 300th Anniversary by working toward having 300 people in worship each month. The congregation met the goal in April, with a total attendance of 337.
  • Northern Colorado Church of the Brethren has announced a Brethren Anniversary Celebration on Aug. 24 at Hygiene, Colo., at the historic Brethren church there. The meetinghouse in the small town of Hygiene, north of Longmont, was the first Brethren church to be built in Colorado. Along with it a sanatarium was built in 1882, started by pastor Jacob S. Flory who had come to the area a few years earlier to work with tuberculosis patients. The Brethren Anniversary Celebration at Hygiene will begin with a picnic at 2 p.m., followed by a short program of history and fellowship.

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. Jeff Lennard and Beth Merrill contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for July 16. 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.